On Paris, the Home Secretary gave the House the chilling statistics yesterday. We now know that among the victims was a 36-year-old Briton, Nick Alexander, who was killed at the Bataclan. I know that the thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with the families and friends of all those affected.
On Saturday, I spoke to President Hollande to express the condolences of the British people and our commitment to helping in whatever way we can. After our horror and our anger must come our resolve and our determination to rid our world of this evil, so let me set out the steps that we are taking to deal with this terrorist threat.
The more we learn about what happened in Paris, the more it justifies the full-spectrum approach that we have discussed before in the House. When we are dealing with radicalised European Muslims, linked to ISIL in Syria and inspired by a poisonous narrative of extremism, we need an approach that covers the full range: military power, counter-terrorism expertise, and defeating the poisonous narrative that is the root cause of this evil. Let me take each in turn.
First, we should be clear that this murderous violence requires a strong security response. That means continuing our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and, where necessary, working with our allies to strike against those who pose a direct threat to the safety of British people around the world. Together, coalition forces have now damaged over 13,500 targets. We have helped local forces to regain 30% of ISIL territory in Iraq and we have helped to retake Kobane and push ISIL back towards Raqqa. On Friday, Kurdish forces retook Sinjar. The United Kingdom is playing its part, training local forces, striking targets in Iraq and providing vital intelligence support. Last Thursday the United States carried out an air strike in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohammed Emwazi, the ISIL executioner known as Jihadi John. That was a result of months of painstaking work in which America and Britain worked hand in glove to stop this vicious murderer.
It is important for the whole House to understand the reality of the situation that we are in. There is no Government in Syria with whom we can work, particularly in that part of Syria. There are no rigorous police investigations or independent courts upholding justice in Raqqa. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots against our people. In this situation, we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing things were different. We have to act to keep our people safe, and that is what this Government will always do.
Secondly, on counter-terrorism here in the UK, over the past year alone our outstanding police and security services have already foiled no fewer than seven terrorist plots right here in Britain. The people in our security services work incredibly hard. They are a credit to our nation and we should pay tribute to them again in our House today. But now we must do more to help them in their vital work. So in next week’s strategic defence and security review, we will make a major additional investment in our world-class intelligence agencies. This will include over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff and more money to increase our network of counter-terrorism experts in the middle east, north Africa, south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
At the G20 summit in Turkey this weekend, we agreed additional steps to better protect ourselves from the threat of foreign fighters by sharing intelligence and stopping them travelling. We also agreed for the first time to work together to strengthen global aviation security. We need robust and consistent standards of aviation security in every airport in the world and the UK will at least double its spending in this area.
Thirdly, to defeat this terrorist threat in the long run we must also understand and address its root cause. That means confronting the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism itself. As I have argued before, that means going after both violent and non-violent extremists—those who sow the poison but stop short of actually promoting violence; they are part of the problem. We will improve integration, not least by inspecting and shutting down any educational institutions that are teaching intolerance, and we will actively encourage reforming and moderate Muslim voices to speak up and challenge the extremists, as so many do.
It cannot be said enough that the extremist ideology is not true Islam, but it does not work to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists, not least because the extremists themselves self-identify as Muslims. There is no point denying that; what we need to do instead is take apart their arguments and demonstrate how wrong they are, and in doing so we need the continued help of Muslim communities and Muslim scholars. They are playing a powerful role and I commend them on their absolutely essential work.
We cannot stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values with practical help, funding, campaigns, protection and political representation. This is a fundamental part of how we can defeat this terrorism both at home and abroad.
Turning to the G20 summit, there were also important discussions on Syria and on dealing with other long-term threats to our security, such as climate change. Let me briefly address those.
On Syria, we discussed how we do more to help all those in desperate humanitarian need and how to find a political solution to the conflict. Britain, as has often been said, is already providing £1.1 billion in vital life-saving assistance—that makes us the second largest bilateral donor in the world—and last week we committed a further £275 million to be spent in Turkey, a country hosting over 2 million refugees. In February, the United Kingdom will seek to raise further significant new funding by co-hosting a donors conference in London together with Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations.
But none of this is a substitute for the most urgent need of all: to find a political solution that brings peace to Syria and enables millions of refugees to return home. Yesterday I held talks with President Putin. We reviewed the progress made by our Foreign Ministers in Vienna to deliver a transition in Syria. We still have disagreements—there are still big gaps between us—but there is progress.
I also met with President Obama and European leaders at the G20, and we agreed some important concrete steps forward, including basing some British aircraft alongside other NATO allies at the airbase at Incirlik if that is the decision of the North Atlantic Council, which meets shortly. These would be in an air defence role to support Turkey at this difficult time. We also agreed on the importance of stepping up our joint effort to deal with ISIL in Iraq and Syria—indeed, wherever it manifests itself.
This raises important questions for our country. We must ask ourselves whether we are really doing all we can be doing—all we should be doing—to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to us directly, not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory that it controls. We are taking part in air strikes over Iraq and have struck over 350 targets. Significant action has been taken in recent hours. ISIL is not just present in Iraq; it also operates across the border in Syria, although that border is meaningless to it—as far as ISIL is concerned, it is all one space. It is in Syria, in Raqqa, that ISIL has its headquarters, and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. Raqqa is, if you like, the head of the snake.
Over Syria we are supporting our allies—the US, France, Jordan and the Gulf countries—with intelligence, surveillance and refuelling. But I believe, as I have said many times before, that we should be doing more. We face a direct and growing threat to our country, and we need to deal with it not just in Iraq but in Syria too. I have always said that there is a strong case for our doing this: our allies are asking us to do it, and the case for doing it has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks. We cannot and should not expect others to carry the burdens, and the risks, of protecting our country.
I recognise that there are concerns in this House. What difference would action by the UK really make? Could it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? Above all, how would a decision by Britain to join in strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and a diplomatic strategy to bring the war in Syria to an end? I understand those concerns, and I know that they must be answered. I believe that they can be answered. Many of them were expressed in the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
My firm conviction is that we need to act against ISIL in Syria. There is a compelling case for doing so. It is for the Government, I accept, to make that case to this House and to the country. I can therefore announce that as a first important step towards doing so, I will respond personally to the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful middle east. This strategy should, in my view, include taking the action in Syria that I have spoken about. I hope that, in setting out the arguments in this way, I can help to build support right across the House for the action that I believe it is necessary to take. That is what I am going to be putting in place over the coming days, and I hope that colleagues from across the House will engage with that and make their views clear, so that we can have a strong vote in the House of Commons and do the right thing for our country.
Finally, the G20 also addressed other longer-term threats to global security. In just two weeks’ time, we will gather in Paris to agree a global climate change deal. This time, unlike in Kyoto, it will include the USA and China. Here at this summit, I urged leaders to keep the ambition of limiting global warming by 2050 to less than 2° above pre-industrial levels. Every country needs to put forward its programme for reducing carbon emissions. And, as G20 countries, we also need to do more to provide the financing that is needed to help poorer countries around the world to switch to greener forms of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change.
We also agreed that we should do more to wipe out the corruption that chokes off development, and to deal with antimicrobial resistance. Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we face in the world today, from migrants fleeing corrupt African states to corrupt Governments undermining our efforts on global poverty by preventing people from getting the revenues and services that are rightfully theirs. And if antibiotics stop working properly—the antimicrobial resistance issue—millions of people in the world will die unnecessarily. So these are both vital issues on which the United Kingdom is taking a real lead.
Let me conclude by returning to the terrorist threat. Here in the UK, the threat level is already severe, which means that an attack is highly likely, and it will remain so. That is why we continue to encourage the public to remain vigilant. We will do all we can to support our police and intelligence agencies as they work around the clock. The terrorist aim is clear: it is to divide us and to destroy our way of life. So now more than ever we must come together and stand united, carrying on with the way of life that we know and love. Tonight, England will play France at Wembley. The match is going ahead. Our people stand together as they have done so many times throughout history when faced with evil. And once again, together, we will prevail. I commend this statement to the House.
First, I thank the Prime Minister for his statement, a copy of which he kindly sent me earlier. May I also thank him for the measured and careful tone of his public statements since the dreadful events of last Friday in Paris? In the face of such tragic events, and the horror, anxiety and sorrow that have caused the British public to stand up in solidarity with the people of France, it is right that we take an approach of solidarity with them.
The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have talked of the importance of achieving consensus in our response to the attacks and a common objective in trying to defeat ISIL. I agree with him, and the Opposition stand ready to work with him and the Government towards that end. May I also thank him for arranging for the National Security Adviser to brief my Opposition Front-Bench colleagues last weekend? Will he assure me that the Opposition and other parties will continue to be briefed about developments as they emerge?
On behalf of Labour Members, I want to express my condolences to and solidarity with the people of Paris in the wake of the horrific and unjustified attacks on the people who suffered in that city last Friday night.
That solidarity extends to all victims of terrorism and conflict, whether they be in Paris, Beirut, Ankara or Syria itself. Absolutely nothing can justify the deliberate targeting of civilians by anyone, anywhere, ever. These contemptible attacks were an attempt to divide Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and peoples of all faiths and none, as was tried in London some years ago. They will fail.
Secondly, I wish to take a moment to praise the efforts and work of emergency service workers, in Paris and elsewhere, who spring into action in these dreadful and very difficult situations, and help to save life. It is easy to forget the extraordinary heroism of those involved in simply going to work, not knowing what will happen. It is not easy to drive an ambulance not knowing what you are going to find when you arrive at the scene.
In my letter to François Hollande this weekend, I said that we stand united with his country in expressing our unequivocal condemnation of those involved in planning and carrying out these atrocities. The shocking events in Paris were a reminder to all of the ever-present threat of terrorism and indiscriminate violence. In this House, we also have a primary and particular duty to protect the people of this country and keep them safe. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham pledged our support for the Government in their efforts to do that, and that we reiterate again. We welcome the sensible measures to make more funding available for our security services, so that they can gather intelligence and expose and prevent plots, but can the Prime Minister confirm that those will be balanced with the need to protect our civil liberties, which were so hard won in this country and are so stoutly defended by many of us? They are part of what distinguishes us from many other regimes around the world—indeed, regimes from which people are fleeing.
My right hon. Friend said yesterday that in the forthcoming spending review there should be protection of the policing budget and policing services, which clearly will be playing a vital role on the ground in ensuring that our communities are safe. Will the Prime Minister now confirm that he is willing to work with us to prevent cuts to our police force and ensure that they are able to continue with the protective work they have to do? Does he agree with the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair, that it would be “a disaster” to axe police community support officers, as they bring in vital intelligence from communities to help prevent attacks? As a Member of Parliament for an inner-city community, I fully understand and appreciate the great work that safer neighbourhood teams and community policing teams do.
As for community cohesion, we in Britain are proud to live in a diverse and multi-faith society, and we stand for the unity of all communities. There are more than 2 million Muslims living in Britain, and they are as utterly appalled by the violence in Paris as anybody else. We have seen after previous atrocities such as this that there can be a backlash against the Muslim and other communities. Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and far-right racism have no place whatsoever in our society or our thinking, and I hope there will be no increase in any of that degree of intolerance as a result of what has happened in Paris.
Will the Prime Minister set out in more detail the steps his Government are taking to work with representative organisations of all our faith communities to ensure that we achieve and strengthen community cohesion during these very difficult times? We must also ensure that those entering our country, whether they be refugees or visitors, are appropriately screened. Will he confirm that the Home Office will provide the border staff necessary to do that?
It is also important in these circumstances to maintain our humanitarian duty towards refugees. The Syrian refugees are fleeing the daily brutality of ISIL and Assad and it is our duty—indeed it is our legal obligation—to protect them under the 1951 Geneva convention. I hope the Prime Minister will confirm that our obligation to maintain support for that convention and the rights of refugees will be undiminished by the events of the past few days.
At a time of such tragedy and outrage, it is vital that we are not drawn into responses that feed a cycle of violence and hatred. President Obama has said that ISIS grew out of our invasion of Iraq, and that it is one of its unintended consequences. Will the Prime Minister consider that as one of the very careful responses that President Obama has made recently on this matter? It is essential that any military response that might be considered has not only consent, but support of the international community and, crucially, legality from the United Nations. I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments at the G20 yesterday when he said:
“I think people want to know there is a whole plan for the future of Syria, for the future of the region. It is perfectly right to say a few extra bombs and missiles won’t transform the situation.”
I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to respond personally to the Foreign Affairs Committee report, which has been so carefully presented to the House and the country. Will he confirm that, before bringing any motion to the House, he will provide answers, as he has indicated that he will, to the seven questions raised by the Select Committee report? Will he also say more about the particular contribution that Britain has made to the Vienna talks on the future of Syria? The talks possibly provide a basis for some cautious optimism that there could indeed be a political future in Syria that involves a ceasefire and the ability of people eventually to be able to return home.
Finally on this matter, will the Prime Minister also say what more can be done to cut off supplies of weapons and external markets to ISIL? Weapons are being supplied to some of the most repressive regimes in the region. What is being done to ensure that they do not end up in even worse hands, including those of ISIL and some of the extremist jihadist groups in Syria? What more can be done to bring to account those Governments, organisations or banks that have funded these extremists, or turned a blind eye to them? We need to know the financial trail by which ISIL gets its funding and indeed sells its oil.
Turning quickly now to other G20 issues, did the Prime Minister have a chance to congratulate the new Canadian Prime Minister? He did not mention it, but I am sure that he has. Is he also aware that the current slowdown in the global economy is causing concern? What discussions has he had with his Chancellor about the dangers of more demand being sucked out of the economy at this time?
In conclusion, the Prime Minister mentioned the climate change talks that will be going on in Paris over the next few weeks. They are very, very important indeed. I welcome the commitment he made in relation to the problems created by epidemics and antibiotic resistance. I ask him also to consider this: the cuts that have been made to renewable energy in this country run directly counter to everything he and his Government have said they want to achieve at the climate change talks. We must combat climate change globally, internationally, and here in Britain.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for the tone that he is taking in trying to aim for greater consensus. Let me try to answer each question in turn.
Briefing on national security issues is available to all Privy Counsellors. If it is not offered, then Members should ask. The National Security Secretariat is there to help, and its role is particularly important during these times of heightened alert.
The right hon. Gentleman was right to praise the emergency services in France, as they did an amazing job. It is important to reiterate—and the Home Secretary did this yesterday—that ever since the Mumbai attacks and following the intelligence we had about the potential for marauding firearms attacks some years ago, a lot of work has been done in Britain to try to ensure that we would be ready for any such attack. I thank him for his support of the security services. He was right to mention the vital importance of our civil liberties. Indeed, they are part of what we are fighting to defend.
On policing, we protected counter-terrorism policing budgets throughout the last Parliament, and we will continue to do so throughout this Parliament, which is vital. Members will see the uplift that we are giving to our intelligence and security services. We will do what is necessary to ensure that we keep our country safe.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to condemn anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and right-wing extremism. All those issues are addressed in our counter-extremism paper. We shall be working with local communities, as he suggests, to ensure that they often lead in these debates. Some of the things that have been said by Muslim clerics and Muslim leaders have made a huge difference in recent weeks.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about borders. We do have the opportunity to carry out screening and checks at our borders, because we did not join, and we are not going to join, the Schengen no-border system. Once again, we can see the importance of having those border controls and using them to the best of our ability.
On the Syrian migrant programme, it is worth reminding the House that we are taking 20,000 Syrian refugees from the camps rather than from among those who have already arrived in Europe. That enables us to screen very carefully the people whom we take. There are two levels of screening, the first of which is carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the second by the Home Office, to ensure that we are getting people who are genuinely fleeing persecution and who would not pose a risk to our country.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the genesis of ISIL. The so-called Islamic State is one of the branches of this violent Islamist extremism that we have seen in our world for more than 20 years—I am talking about Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab. It is worth making the point that the first manifestations of this violent Islamist extremism, not least the twin towers attack, happened before the invasion of Iraq. It is important that we do not try to seek excuses for what is a death cult, which has been killing British citizens for many, many years. He rightly asks about the process in Vienna. We are a key part of that, with our Foreign Secretary playing a very strong role. Indeed his work was commended by Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned what I said yesterday about additional bombs and missiles only being able to go so far in Syria. Yes, that is right, Britain can do more, and because of our expertise and targeting, we could cut the number of civilian casualties when that action is taken. It would make a difference, but, alongside that, we also need a process that delivers a Government in Syria who can represent all of the Syrian people. We cannot defeat ISIL purely by a campaign from the air; we need to have Governments in Iraq and in Syria who can be our partners in delivering good government to those countries and in obliterating the death cult that threatens both us and them. Those things go together.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about cutting the supply of weapons and money. We are a key part of the international committee that is working on that. A large amount of ISIL’s money comes from the oil that it sells, not least to the Syrian regime. That is another thing that we would be able to address more directly if we were taking part in the action in Syria.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I had met Justin Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister. I did and I congratulated him on his victory. He is coming to London very shortly to see the Queen. I hope to have a meeting with him, as the Canadians will be very good partners on lots of issues where we work together.
On the economic slowdown, the right hon. Gentleman is right that the forecasts for global growth are lower than they were. Britain and America stand out in the advanced world for having more rapid economic growth, and we encourage others to take some of the steps that we have taken to deliver that growth.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked about renewables and climate change. I have to say that the summit on climate change was disappointing. There is still quite a lot of opposition from some countries on putting in place the things that are needed for a good deal in Paris. Britain has played an important role in getting a good European deal. As for renewable energy, if Members look at what has happened over the past five years, they will see that there has been nothing short of a renewable energy revolution in Britain.
The continued reach and activity of ISIS represents a monumental international security challenge. The aim was to degrade and contain ISIS, but it is not contained, so I thank my right hon. Friend for what he said yesterday about the need to cut off the financial supplies to ISIS and to deal with the narrative over values, and for what he has said today about the need to join our allies in taking action over Syria, as well as Iraq. He is absolutely correct when he says that no military campaign of this nature has ever been won from the air alone, so we may yet require an international coalition on the ground of the sort that we required to remove Saddam from Kuwait. May I ask my right hon. Friend simply to rule nothing out and give no comfort to ISIS, because these people hate us not because of what we do but because of who we are?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his support. Obviously, we should be in the business of working out what we can do and what would make a difference, rather than what we cannot do; but it is my contention that, in the end, the best partner we can have for defeating ISIL in Iraq is the Iraqi Government, and that the best partner we can have in Syria is a reformed Government in Syria, without Assad at their head, who could credibly represent all the Syrian people and be a partner for getting rid of this death cult, which threatens the Syrian people, as well as the rest of us.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. We would very much welcome a commitment by the Government to brief all parties in the House on major developments.
May I associate the Scottish National party with the expressions of shock and sadness for the people of France and all the families and friends of those who were killed and injured in the Paris attacks.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that all assistance, including intelligence information, is being shared with our allies in France? In the UK, we are hugely indebted to all those in our police and security services who work to keep us safe. We welcome the commitment by the Prime Minister to provide necessary funding and personnel to allow them to do this vital work.
Given the scale of the disaster in Syria, we welcome the progress made at the talks in Vienna and at the G20 in Turkey. For the first time, momentum appears to be building to secure a ceasefire, to work through the United Nations and to combat the terrorism of Daesh. Can the Prime Minister update the House on the next diplomatic steps towards a potential ceasefire and political transition in Syria?
In recent weeks and months, there have been large-scale bombing operations in Syria. There has been bombing by the United States of America, by Russia, by France and by many other countries. There have been bombs dropped by drones, bombs dropped from fast jets and missiles fired from naval vessels. President Obama has reiterated his opposition to providing boots on the ground. Given these facts, does the Prime Minister agree that the long-term solution for Syria is an end to the civil war and to provide support for forces such as the Kurds who are fighting Daesh on the ground?
Today, we have seen the arrival of refugees from Syria in Glasgow. These are people who have been fleeing terrorism at home. Does the Prime Minister agree that the welcome we give to those refugees is the true mark of humanity, decency and compassion—in short, the complete opposite of what was visited on Paris by terrorists last Friday?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and questions. First, on briefings, he is now a Privy Counsellor and a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee. If he feels that he is not getting enough briefings, he should please ask my team, and I will make sure that he gets them. He asks about intelligence sharing. We have very strong intelligence sharing with the French Government and, indeed, with others in Europe. There is more we can do. I spoke to the Belgian Prime Minister yesterday to talk about increasing the extent of our intelligence sharing, which is a vital agenda for us to move on.
On Vienna, as the right hon. Gentleman says, there is momentum behind the talks. The Foreign Ministers will meet again in the coming weeks, but right now the role is falling to Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy, to bring the different parties together. It is a very complex piece of work. It is absolutely vital that some of the Syrian opposition groups are involved in this dialogue. We want a future Syria where Sunni, Shi’a, Kurd and Christian are all represented, so the Russians should stop bombing the Free Syrian Army and recognise that it should be part of Syria’s future.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a point about how much can be done from the air. Of course what we need is an end to the civil war, but he goes on to say that we need to support the Kurds. Yes, we do, and some of that support can be delivered from the air. They need our help to bring this conflict to an end.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks about Syrian refugees, let me commend what Glasgow is doing in taking Syrian refugees. I am confident that we will have 1,000 here by Christmas, and I know that they will be well looked after.
I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to a personal reply to the Foreign Affairs Committee report and for his acknowledgement that the defeat of ISIL requires a transition from the Syrian civil war. The progress made at Vienna is therefore beginning to clear the path towards an international plan that would enable the full conventional military defeat of so-called Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq. Will he continue to put our full diplomatic effort into making that plan sufficiently clear politically, militarily and legally, so that he can come to the House to seek an endorsement of a role for our armed forces that will lead to the defeat of ISIL in both Syria and Iraq sooner rather than later?
I thank my hon. Friend for his support and for what he is saying. I very much welcome what he has said today. Yes, I can confirm our full diplomatic effort is towards bringing everyone together. Sitting around the table in Vienna are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Britain, France, America, Turkey and Russia. All the key players are there. On the legal basis for any action that we might take, I believe that we can answer that question comprehensively, as we have on other issues, and I very happy to put that in front of the House, as part of my response to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Prime Minister will know that ISIL wants to exploit the refugee crisis and to poison Europe’s attitude towards those who are fleeing the very same barbarism that we saw, so tragically, on the streets of Paris. He has told me before that Britain is supporting proper registration in Greece. I am concerned that that is not happening. Will he look again urgently at what more Britain and Europe can do to support proper registration and border checks, not just in Greece but at internal borders throughout Europe, so that we can ensure that we provide the security and humanitarian aid that is desperately needed, and Britain and Europe can support both our security and our solidarity with desperate refugees?
I thank the right hon. Lady for what she says. She is right that, as the external border of Europe, Greece plays an absolutely vital role and that it is vital that the registration of migrants as they arrive takes place properly. My understanding is that we have given more, I think, than any other country in Europe to the European Asylum Support Office, EASO, so we are certainly putting in the resources, even though, effectively for us, Greece is not our external border; our external border is the border controls at Calais, because we are not part of Schengen. So we are doing what we can; we will continue to see whether more can be done, but she is right that making sure that people can be properly documented as they arrive will be a vital part of our security.
The planned carnage in Paris shows the danger of allowing declared jihadists to return to their country of origin. Will my right hon. Friend be good enough to review the counter-terrorism legislation to prevent declared UK jihadists from returning to the United Kingdom, whatever human rights or the charter of fundamental rights may say? We must put the lives of the people of this country before human rights.
I thank my hon. Friend for his point, and I have a huge amount of sympathy with it, and that is why in the counter-terrorism legislation that we passed we took further steps to confiscate people’s passports. If someone is a dual national, we can strip them of their UK citizenship if we think that they no longer merit citizenship of this country. We now have the power—it was controversial but the Home Secretary and I pushed it forward—to exclude temporarily even British nationals from returning to the UK. I am all for looking at options for going further to make sure that we keep ourselves safe, but it was very contentious at the time. This situation is demonstrating that we were right to stick to our guns.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. I join him and colleagues on both sides of the House here today in expressing solidarity, compassion and sympathy to the people of Paris and Beirut, especially the injured and families of those who have lost their lives, and in condemning the terrorists who seek to attack us. They detest our diversity, our freedom and our generosity of spirit, and we let them win if we compromise on any of those things. It is critical that any UK military involvement in Syria should focus on civilian protection and political transition, alongside crushing ISIL; otherwise we will repeat the mistakes of the illegal and counterproductive Iraq war. So does the
Prime Minister agree that long-term stability in Syria must be part of the strategy against ISIL, and will he confirm that any plan brought to Parliament by the Government to use our armed forces there will specifically address that?
The hon. Gentleman is right to mention the bombing in Beirut. Some people posit this as a clash of civilisations—the Islamic world against the rest. The Beirut bomb, as with so many other bombs before it, proved that these people—in this case, ISIL—are killing Muslims in their hundreds and thousands. It is very important to demonstrate to Muslim communities in our own countries that we take this violence as seriously as violence committed in Paris or elsewhere.
The hon. Gentleman asks whether what we would do in Syria would be about civilian protection. My argument is, yes, it would be about civilian protection in the obvious way—that if we can take out the murderers of ISIL, we are helping to protect the Syrian people whom they are threatening—but, because Britain has precision munitions such as the Brimstone missile, which are in many ways more effective even than some of the things the Americans have, our intervention and our assistance would mean better targeting of the people who should be targeted and fewer civilian casualties.
In his very welcome statement today, my right hon. Friend is clearly right to focus on the political track in the Syrian negotiations, building in part on the Kofi Annan proposals from some time ago, and on the significant progress that appears to have been made in Vienna last week. If those negotiations are successful, that will of itself remove a huge barrier to the widespread military coalition that all of us want to see, in which Britain, as my right hon. Friend said today, would have the ability, as well as a number of unique assets, to play a very significant part. If the negotiations in Vienna are successful, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister, coming back to this House, will get a huge majority of Members from both sides supporting Britain’s full participation in it.
My right hon. Friend, who follows these things closely, makes some very good points. Of course, as I have said, to defeat ISIL in Syria two things are required. First, we need to make sure that the international community—Arab states and others—are taking the military action to degrade and defeat ISIL. Secondly, we need a political settlement that gives us an effective ally in Syria to defeat ISIL in a way that can unite the country. Those two things go together, but if my right hon. Friend is arguing that military action should follow only after some political agreement has been nailed down, we might wait a very long time for that to happen. I caution against that approach.
I want to be clear about what I am proposing here. I am saying that the Government will bring together all our arguments about how we succeed in Iraq, how we succeed in Syria, what a political process should achieve, how we degrade and defeat ISIL, the role that Britain should play, and my argument that we should be going further in Syria as well as in Iraq. We will put all those arguments together in response to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Then it will be for Members of this House to see whether they want to assent to that idea. If that happens, we shall have the vote and take the action so that we play a part with others in defence of our own national security.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. May I gently say to the House that I am conscious that there are many colleagues here who cannot be accused of underestimating their own expertise in these important matters, but nearly 60 Members still wish to contribute? If I am to have any chance of accommodating them all, they will all need to follow the rubric of brevity, now to be demonstrated to perfection by Gisela Stuart.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to a wider narrative explaining how he thinks Daesh can be defeated, and his insistence that that has to be done with our allies. Press reports this morning suggest that France has invoked the mutual defence clause in the Lisbon treaty for the first time. Will the Prime Minister explain what practical implications that may have for the United Kingdom and our co-operation?
I am grateful for the fact that the hon. Lady raises this. It is not a clause that has been invoked before, as I understand it, so we are looking very carefully at exactly what it would involve. Standing back from the legalities, it is very clear: the French are our friends, our allies, our brothers and sisters and we should be with them. If there are things we can do to help them, I say we should.
In the extreme circumstances of a Paris-type attack in London, does my right hon. Friend think that depriving the police of the right to shoot to kill would make the public safer?
No, I absolutely do not. I hope the Leader of the Opposition will review his remarks. What happened in Paris was an attack. It was not a siege, hostages were not taken and demands were not set out. It was an attempt to kill as many people as possible, and when the police are confronted with that, they must be clear that if they have to take out a terrorist to save lives, they should go right ahead and do so.
Is the Prime Minister aware that those of us who are not persuaded, at least at this stage, that air strikes should be extended to Syria have no less hatred for the mass murderers who have carried out so many atrocities, the latest in Paris? We are not persuaded, not because we are pacifists or semi-pacifists—I am certainly not so and never likely to be—nor because of the internal politics of the Labour party, but because, as the Foreign Affairs Committee concluded, there does not seem to be a strong case for extending air strikes, and it will achieve little or nothing and simply make us feel good that we are doing something as a result of the atrocities.
I do not agree with that view. I respect the fact that it is for the Government to bring forward the argument, to make the case and to seek to persuade as many Members of this House as possible that it is the right thing to do. People who oppose that have to answer the question why it is right to take out ISIL in Iraq, but wrong to take out ISIL in Syria, particularly as the headquarters of ISIL are in Syria and it is from Syria that the attacks on this country have been planned and, for all we know, continue to be planned. That is the question that colleagues will have to answer after reading my response to the Foreign Affairs Committee. If we can get to the situation where it looks like Britain can come together as one and say, “It is right for us to take this action”, I am not asking for an overwhelming majority; just a majority would be good enough.
The Prime Minister is only too well aware of the danger posed to our society by those returning from serving with ISIL in Syria. What measures are the Government taking to persuade those who can to speak out against what has happened? They are more likely to influence young Muslims than any of us.
My right hon. Friend is right. Huge numbers in Britain’s Muslim communities have made it clear that what is being done by ISIL is not in their name and that those are not representatives of Islam, but a perversion of Islam. That is incredibly powerful, and I encourage all those people who have already made such an effort to go on doing that, please. My right hon. Friend is right. Those people who have been to Syria, perhaps as part of an aid convoy, who have seen what has happened and have come back, rightly disillusioned by the butchery of those people—their hatred of people with different ways of life and the appalling way they treat women as sex slaves and throw gay people off the top of buildings—can be some of the most powerful voices saying, “Those are not people we can deal with. Those are people we have to finish.”
May I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, who have experienced over many, many years the ravages of terrorism personally and at close quarters, express our full support for the Prime Minister and his words and actions in recent days in relation to the terrible events in Paris and elsewhere, and express our profound sympathies with the people affected? In relation to counter-terrorism, does the Prime Minister agree that the security services need the resources—I very much welcome what has been said in recent days—and they need the powers? We look forward to working with the Government to introduce more powers with proper ministerial oversight, but the security services also need public support and the support of politicians. When they need to shoot to kill, they need our support. I welcome what the Prime Minister has said about the shameful trait expressed, sadly, by some even in this House, of seeking to blame the terrorists’ victims for contributing to their own murders, by saying that the foreign policy of this country is wrong. That is a shameful approach. Terrorism has no excuses. It never had any excuses and the people who express such sentiments should be ashamed of themselves.
As has often been the case in recent days and recent weeks, the right hon. Gentleman speaks with great power and great force, and I agree with what he says.
As well as action from our armed forces, security forces and police, we need to tackle the ideology that lies behind the threat that we face. Does the Prime Minister agree that as part of that we need to support those who challenge the extremists, expose Daesh as a death cult, support the communities who feel vulnerable to the spread of Wahhabism within the UK, and help to stop more people sliding into extremism?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. For too long in some European countries, Governments have felt that the way to handle community relations is to leave people in different silos and listen to self-appointed community leaders rather than engage directly with people. When it comes to this battle against extremism, we should not be neutral. We should be very clear about the groups we will engage with because they back the values we share, and those that we do not agree with and frankly think might be part of the problem. Greater clarity on this is probably not just necessary in Britain; I expect it is going to be necessary in other parts of Europe too.
Last Friday evening at Wembley stadium, when the Prime Minister shared a platform with Prime Minister Modi, he made a speech about being proud to be the leader of the most multi-cultural country in the world. Does he agree that in order to protect and preserve that, we need to be very aggressive in our counter-narrative, and that that means the internet companies doing much more than they are currently to take away the most important method of recruitment, while internationally it means working with Europol and Interpol and giving them the support they need, as this is an international issue?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the support that he gave to the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to our country last week. What I said standing alongside Prime Minister Modi is that while of course we still have to fight discrimination and racism in our country, I think we can lay some claim to being one of the most successful, multi-racial, multi-faith, multi-ethnic democracies in our world. India aspires to do that as well, and it should link us. The right hon. Gentleman is right about working with internet companies. Just as we have worked with them to try to take paedophilia and child pornography off the internet, so there is more we can do to get this extremism off the internet as well.
The Prime Minister is right to focus on the importance of a multi-faceted approach, but may I suggest to him that when it comes to military intervention in Syria, we must learn from previous errors and try to ensure that we put together a proper strategy involving regional powers and allies, including Iran and Russia, which might have to recognise that ISIL is a greater danger than President Assad, because we need to accept that air strikes alone will not defeat this evil regime?
My hon. Friend is right that bringing together an international coalition for political change in Syria is the right thing to do, and that is exactly what we are doing. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, America, Britain, France, Turkey and others are all in the room together negotiating this, and that is the way it should be. But we also have to have regard to our own national security, and every day that ISIL is active in Iraq and Syria is a day that we are in some danger in our own country.
The Prime Minister is right that the police and the security services need our full support at this time. Should it not be immediately obvious to everyone—to everyone—that the police need the full and necessary powers, including the proportionate use of lethal force if needs be, to keep our communities safe?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I think we can have huge regard for our police in this country. The old saying that the public are the police and the police are the public rings true, because they come from our communities—they are not seen as some occupying force. It is absolutely right that when they are confronting murderers and people with weapons they have to be able, on occasion, to take lethal action. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will think very carefully about what he has said, because it is very important that we all support the police in the work they do rather than undermine it.
Will my right hon. Friend set out what plans the Government are taking forward to make airport security safer given the belief that the Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb?
This morning we have seen some reports that the Russian security services are now making it clear that they believe that it was a bomb that brought down that aircraft, tragically, after it left Sharm el-Sheikh. I discussed this issue with President Putin yesterday. We need to work with others to look at the most vulnerable locations around the world and work out how we can make them safer. There is no 100% security you can deliver, even in the most advanced airport, but there are some basic things about scanners, about the way luggage is handled, about the way passengers interact with their luggage, and about what happens at the gate—best practice that can be introduced right across the world. That is what we are going to work on.
If a broad international coalition is not just possible but necessary on Syria, what is the obstacle to a Security Council resolution? On the subject of financial flows, will the Prime Minister answer this question directly: what are the obstacles to disrupting and degrading the financial flows and the financial institutions without which Daesh could not function?
The obstacle so far to a Security Council resolution has been the fact that one of the permanent members, Russia, has threatened to veto meaningful Security Council resolutions that would perhaps provide the overarching permission for the action that we believe is necessary in Syria. I will answer the question very directly in my response to the Foreign Affairs Committee in saying that the action I believe we should take is legal under international law. I know that should be spelled out clearly, and of course I will spell it out clearly.
In terms of disrupting Daesh’s financial flows, we are part of the committee that is looking at all the action that can be taken, including against financial institutions. As I said, one of the most important things we can do is to stop its funding through the oil trade, some of which it is selling directly to Assad.
Earlier this year the Kingdom of Morocco signed an agreement with France to train imams and preachers, including women, in the moderate mainstream tradition to which my right hon. Friend referred. Will he congratulate Morocco on the exceptional leadership it has displayed in tackling extremism and commend its further efforts, whereby perhaps the UK can learn some of the lessons that France is currently undergoing?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We can learn the lesson from Morocco. There is also work that the German Government have been doing with Turkish imams and work that we have been doing with training imams coming into this country. One of the remarkable things about the G20 was the conversation about fighting radicalisation and extremism. The proposals made by, for instance, the Indonesian President and the Malaysian Prime Minister—both countries pride themselves on being part of the moderate Muslim world—were particularly powerful to listen to.
While we differ on the details of how to ensure that citizens are kept safe, I certainly agree that it is the overwhelming priority of the Government to make sure that they are. In that vein, will the Prime Minister assure us that as well as giving extra money to the security services, he will make a significant investment in our diplomatic services, which are world class and are needed more than ever right now? They should not be hollowed out by cuts.
Our diplomatic posts play an absolutely vital role in Britain’s soft power. We were ranked the other day as No. 1 in the world for soft power. We have been opening embassies around the world rather than closing them. This is a good opportunity to thank all our hard-working staff from this Dispatch Box.
To counter the appalling slaughter that was faced by all those in Paris, we will need armed police on the spot within minutes. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that we have sufficient armed police in all our cities to do just that?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this. Following the Mumbai attacks and the intelligence we had after that about potential attacks in this country, a lot of work was done to make sure that our armed response vehicles have a sufficient number of people to meet the challenge in any of our major urban areas. We keep this under review. We are studying what happened in Paris. We are looking at the numbers that we need. I do not think the idea of routinely arming all the police in our country is the right approach, but certainly increasing the number of armed police that are available is something that we are looking at very carefully and something that, if necessary, we will do. While we do not talk about the role of our special forces, they are also available to help in these circumstances. We will do everything we can to make sure that they can be brought to bear at the right moment and can help with our overall effort in dealing with what are extremely challenging problems thrown up by what happened in Paris.
The response right across the House shows how right the hon. Lady is. Those who think that this is somehow all caused by Iraq should remember that France did not take part in the Iraq war. Indeed, it condemned it. The fact about these ISIL terrorists is that they hate our way of life. They want to kill and maim as many people as possible. They also do that to Muslims with whom they disagree. That is why we have to confront and defeat them, not compromise with or excuse in any way this vile organisation.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, particularly his commitment to come to the House with an argument for extending British military action to Syria. However, does he agree that the current threat from ISIL to our national security is such that he may have to take action as Prime Minister without coming back to this House, in order to protect our national security?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this question. I have always said very clearly at this Dispatch Box that, in the case of premeditated action—for instance, against ISIL in Syria—it is right that we have a debate and a vote, and I am happy to repeat that. However, when action in the national interest needs to be taken very quickly and rapidly, and when confidentiality is needed before taking it, I reserve the right to do so and am prepared to act. That is what I did in the case of Hussain and Khan with the UK drone strike and, obviously, in the case of Emwazi, where we worked hand in glove with the Americans. I think it was right to take that action and to explain afterwards, but I will try to stick to that clear demarcation. I think that is the right approach for our country.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and I am sure that sensible people on both sides of the House will support sensible measures in the days and weeks ahead. Have the Government given any consideration to the way in which the Government of Saudi Arabia perhaps export, fund and encourage radicalism, and is that something we should address, with a view to making sure that they do not radicalise young people in the UK?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I met the King of Saudi Arabia at the G20 and we discussed the situation in Syria. It is fair to say that Saudi Arabia has quite a strong de-radicalisation programme for its own citizens who have become extremists, and that has been successful. As I have said, we need to ask more broadly how we stop people setting off down the path to extremism in the first place. That is important in terms of what is taught, and how it is taught, in schools and how we make sure that, in all our educational practices right across the world—whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims or Hindus—we are teaching tolerance and understanding right from the very start.
Although I suspect that many, both in this House and beyond, will find it unpalatable that we are talking to President Putin at this time, I wholeheartedly support the Prime Minister having those discussions. Picking up on the point made by Alex Salmond, is it the case that the Government are still trying to work towards getting a UN Security Council resolution on these matters, hand in glove with the other strategy to which the Prime Minister has referred?
We keep talking with Security Council partners about potential resolutions that we could put forward on any number of issues to do with this overall problem of ISIL, Iraq and Syria. However, something to back the sort of military action we have spoken about in this House has not been possible up to now, because of the potential Russian veto. It is important for us to understand that it is possible to act within, and with the full backing of, international law without a Security Council resolution. Obviously, it is better in many ways to have a Security Council resolution as well, but we cannot outsource our national security to a Russian veto or, indeed, a veto by anybody else.
May I ask the Prime Minister to reject the view that sees terrorist acts as always being a response or a reaction to what we in the west do? Does he agree that such an approach risks infantilising the terrorists and treating them like children, when the truth is that they are adults who are entirely responsible for what they do? No one forces them to kill innocent people in Paris or Beirut. Unless we are clear about that, we will fail even to understand the threat we face, let alone confront it and ultimately overcome it.
It is that sort of moral and intellectual clarity that is necessary in dealing with terrorists. I know there is something deep in all of us that wants to try to find an excuse, an explanation or an understanding, but sometimes the answer is staring us in the face. With ISIL, that is absolutely the case.
The people of Colchester and north Essex mourn the loss of Nick Alexander. Nick died doing the job he loved, giving pleasure to others through music. Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to Nick and also reaffirm our resolve that we will not allow these murderous cowards to destroy our way of life?
I certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Nick. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. ISIL was trying to destroy our way of life, our value systems and the things that people like to do in their spare time. One of the most important things we can do, alongside all the security responses, is to go on living our lives.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. On behalf of myself and my two colleagues from the Social Democratic and Labour party, I would like to convey our sympathy to those affected and our outright opposition to terrorism. Coming from Northern Ireland, we all know what it was like for so many years. We note that the Prime Minister will come back to the House with a full, comprehensive strategy. Will he define what he means by action that would be legal under international law?
What I have said is that, as part of the strategy that I will lay out in response to the Foreign Affairs Committee report, I will set out why I think we should take action not just in Iraq, but in Syria, too. In doing so, we will set out the legal advice. It is very important that the House sees that. The action we are taking in Iraq is being taken at the request of the legitimate Iraqi Government, and the action we took against Mohammed Emwazi and against Khan and Hussain was also taken on the basis of the self-defence of the United Kingdom. I can lay out very clearly the arguments about why we should be doing it, how we should help keep ourselves safe and why it is in the interests of our national security, but I will make sure that the paper addresses the legal arguments as well.
Following a second massacre in Paris last weekend, our own citizens being murdered in Tunisia and a plethora of Daesh-led massacres over the past year, may I say that now is the time not for knee-jerk reactions, but to reflect and plan effectively? Will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to stop and destroy the murderous regime that is Daesh, for the sake of our own national security? I support him 100% in that, as no doubt do many Members in this House.
I thank my hon. Friend for his support. I do not believe in knee-jerk reactions. When events such as those in Paris happen, though, it is worth asking every single question about our state of preparedness, how we would respond and our intelligence co-operation. That is exactly what we are doing and it is right that we do that.
The content and tone of the Prime Minister’s statement spoke not just for the Government, but for the country. He referred to Mount Sinjar and the retaking of Sinjar by Kurdish forces supported by the international coalition. The all-party group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq visited the region and on Saturday I was with the Kurds on the frontline south of Kirkuk. Those Kurdish forces are brave and are putting their lives on the line every day; they did so at Sinjar, along with the Syrian Kurds. Can we do more to provide material support for the peshmerga of Iraqi Kurdistan and, pending a decision on whether we go into Syria, give more support from the air to the Kurds in Iraq?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. The answer to his questions is yes. As he knows, we are already providing training and support to the Kurdish peshmerga forces. They are incredibly brave and incredibly dedicated, and they have done a brilliant job in liberating people from ISIL dominance. We discussed yesterday, with President Obama and the French, German and Italian leaders, what more we could do. Germany is already doing a lot in that area. We are doing a lot, and there is certainly more that we can do.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to defeating ISIL in Syria as well as in Iraq, and his commitment to continuing to make the case to this House and to the electorate, but may I ask him to do so as part of a long-term vision for stability in the region?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. People want to know that our response is not driven by anger, but is driven by resolve and is thoughtful and thought through, and that it will make us safer and the region more stable. I am convinced we can answer all those questions in the document I will put before the House.
May I associate myself with the comments of my right hon. Friend Angus Robertson in welcoming the refugees arriving in Glasgow today? With regard to the Paris climate change talks, may I ask the Prime Minister what further discussions were held on that at the G20 and whether he plans to attend the talks in Paris as an act of leadership and solidarity?
Yes, I will certainly be there at the start of the talks on Monday. The discussions at the G20 were positive in that everyone again committed to the aim of a below 2° C rise in global temperatures. My concern is that there is still some opposition from some countries to some of the things necessary to make this agreement really meaningful, such as five-year reviews and the rest of it, and we still have not had every country’s independent proposal for how they will reduce their own carbon emissions. There is important work to be done, and we can use the Commonwealth conference for part of that. Britain is playing its part. There will be an agreement—I am confident of that—and it will involve Russia and China, but we are now battling for a good agreement, rather than just a mediocre one.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that our overriding priority must be the security of our country and its people, and that we must recognise that the threat we face from terrorists today is not just about bullets and bombs, but about cyber-attacks? Will he ensure that we have the right funding and organisations to deal with this threat?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We face cyber-attacks not just from states, but from radical groups and individuals. We have made a lot of progress in recent years in funding our cyber-defences, but I think that should be a major feature of the strategic defence review we will discuss next week.
The first duty of the Government is to protect their citizens. The Prime Minister has set out with absolute clarity the steps required to do that, for which his statement is welcome. Will he, however, say more about what steps he will take to secure action against those who are buying contraband goods from ISIL—not just the Syrian Government, but individuals and companies?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks. There are of course sales of antiquities, to which he may be referring, as well as of oil. We are trying to crack down on all those things, and we are looking at what more we might have to do in this country to assent to some of the conventions in that area.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I think it is reasonable to move on at 2 o’clock, not beyond, so I appeal for brevity. If colleagues help each other, that would be really useful.
Along with the hon. Members for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), for South Antrim (Danny Kinahan) and for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), I was on the frontline against ISIL/Daesh south of Kirkuk in Iraqi Kurdistan last weekend. Indeed, we saw the amazing work that the peshmerga are doing in taking back territory and communities from that evil existence. We also visited some refugee and displaced persons camps, and saw the families affected. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that we need to ensure that we are protecting those minorities in the middle east?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Making sure that both Iraq and Syria are countries with Governments who represent all their peoples—Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd—is absolutely vital.
Several hon. Members rose—
I agree with all the comments about the Government’s No. 1 priority being to safeguard the national security of those we represent, but that actually extends to every Member of the House. With regard to the use of lethal force by intelligence and police forces abroad and at home, it is of course important that they have the powers necessary to act, but it is also important that they act within a clear legal framework. I welcome the Prime Minister’s agreement to publish the advice on which he intends to act in Syria. Will he also ensure that the basis on which the police act on our streets is published and made known to those we represent?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Let me clarify something, because I do not want to mislead the House. I am not saying that I will publish the legal advice, because Governments have never done that. What I did as Prime Minister in the last Government and will do again in this is to provide a proper and full description of what that legal advice says. I know that that sounds like splitting hairs, but it is important. That is what I will do. As for the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises about the police, perhaps I will ask the Home Secretary to write to him directly about that.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. After his uninterrupted 28 years’ service in the House, I feel sure that David Tredinnick can put a question briefly and, very likely, in a single sentence. I call Mr Tredinnick.
I have seen ideas put forward for these sorts of things, but I do not think it is the right idea. The idea of trying to carve up these countries into a sort of “Sunnistan” and a “Shi’astan” would be a great mistake. What we need to do is to build a Syria that can have a Government who represent all of their people as Syrians.
I have met a number of Syrians during the past couple of weeks, including a very brave citizen journalist, who is about to return to Syria. They are unanimous in calling for a no-bombing zone in Syria to stop civilians being killed by Assad’s barrel bombs. Will the Prime Minister reassure us that he will ensure that the views of Syrian civilians are taken into account in relation to any UK military action?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If we were to take action, it would be to save the lives of Syrian civilians. Of course, we all support no-bombing zones in terms of Assad stopping the practice of raining down barrel bombs, sometimes with chemical weapons, on his own people. That is why, while we should be very focused on ISIL, we cannot forget that President Assad has been one of the recruiting sergeants for ISIL and that his brutality keeps providing fresh recruits. The idea that you can just take sides and team up with Assad against ISIL is an entirely false prospectus.
May I thank the Prime Minister for his statement? In the light of the terrorist attacks in Paris, I believe our police and security services urgently need the new powers set out in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill now. May I therefore urge him to consider speeding up the pre-legislative scrutiny procedure and bring forward the date when this vital Bill will reach the statute book?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are looking at this issue, but I would reassure him that most of what the IP Bill does is to put on to an even clearer statutory footing practices currently carried out by our security and intelligence services. There is one particularly important element that is new, relating to internet connection records, which is probably the most controversial part of the Bill, and I do not want to jeopardise the Bill by rushing it. I hope he is reassured that we will look at the timing, but most of the Bill is about putting powers on a clearer legal basis.
Arguably the more successful forces against Daesh on the ground in Iraq and Syria have been the peshmerga. What diplomatic pressure can the UK Government put on certain allies who are undermining their capabilities?
We are doing everything we can to help their capabilities—training, ammunition and logistical support are coming from us, from the Germans and from the Americans. Obviously, we need to work very hard with all the countries in the region to recognise that the Kurds are our allies in this fight, not least because they are taking it directly to ISIL and saving civilian lives.
As chairman of the all-party group on Kurdistan, I join the Prime Minister in praising the peshmerga forces for retaking Sinjar, with support from US-led air strikes. Does he agree that the Kurdish forces now need their fair share of oil revenues—promised from Baghdad—for them to be able to continue this fight on the ground against the evil ISIL/Daesh?
My hon. Friend has a lot of experience of working with and helping the Kurds, not least from taking part in delivering an earlier no-fly zone. There is an agreement in Iraq about the sharing of oil revenues, but it needs to be honoured. The Iraqi Government need always to make it clear that they are there not just for the Shi’a, but for the Sunnis and Kurds as well.
As I have said before at this Dispatch Box, we are always happy to look at such suggestions, but we have to remember that we cannot declare safe zones without making them fully safe. To do that, we might have to take severe military action against Syrian air defences, aircraft, command and control systems, and all the rest of it. We might also need troops to make the zone safe. There are therefore real problems with these suggestions. I look at them and have discussed them with the Turks a huge amount. There is another danger that it is worth thinking about.
There are 2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. If they felt that a safe zone was being created to push them out of Turkey and into Syria, it might hasten their move into Europe. All those things have to be considered. At the end of the day, safe zones are only proxies for what really needs to happen, which is the destruction of ISIL and the political transition in Syria.
There is an assertion that at least one of the perpetrators of the Paris atrocity came into Europe in the guise of a refugee. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that as we welcome—I emphasise the word “welcome”—genuine refugees into our country, proper security checks will be carried out to ensure that ISIL supporters do not get in under the radar in a similar way?
My hon. Friend makes a good point and puts it in the right way. We must not confuse migration and terrorism, but we need to be clear that proper border controls and checks are necessary to make sure that the people who come to our country do not threaten us. That is one reason why we have never joined Schengen: we want to keep our own border controls. Taking Syrian refugees from the camps enables us to carry out the checks before they take off.
The Prime Minister is right that greater powers are necessary to thwart terrorist plots on the internet. He is also right to make available additional resources for our security services and special forces. However, does he not agree that this would be the worst possible time to proceed with the biggest cuts to a police service anywhere in Europe, which would have a serious impact on the neighbourhood policing that is vital to intelligence gathering, as it is the eyes and ears of counter-terrorism in local communities?
As I have said, we protected counter-terrorism policing budgets in the last Parliament and will do the same in this Parliament. The police have shown in the past five years how well they can find efficiencies and increase the number of neighbourhood police officers on our streets.
Terrorists and their weapons can enter the UK through any point of entry. Ports that mainly handle freight, such as the Humber port, are particularly vulnerable. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the staff levels at Border Force will be maintained and, if necessary, enhanced to combat this threat?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. We are very focused on preventing firearms from entering our country. That is one of the best ways to defend ourselves from these sorts of appalling attacks. We have an intelligence-led model, whereby we use intelligence to ensure that our border security is delivered in the right way at the right time. All the time, we are asking Border Force whether it has what it needs. I discussed that with the head of Border Force when he attended the Cobra meeting on Saturday morning.
I agree with everything the Prime Minister said about Syria and terrorism. Does he agree with me that those who say that Paris is reaping the whirlwind of western policy or that Britain’s foreign policy has increased, not diminished, the threats to our national security not only absolve the terrorists of responsibility, but risk fuelling the sense of grievance and resentment that can develop into extremism and terrorism?
The hon. Gentleman kindly said that he agreed with me and I absolutely agree with him. We have to be very clear to people who are at risk of being radicalised that this sort of excuse culture is wrong. Not only is it wrong for anyone to argue that the Paris attacks were brought about by western policy; it is very damaging for young Muslims growing up in Britain to think that any reasonable person could have that view. I agree with the hon. Gentleman 100%.
Does the Prime Minister believe that any individuals living in the United Kingdom who have information about any of the activities of those who have been radicalised or become terrorists are silent accomplices to any carnage that might take place in this country and that they have a duty to pass on that information immediately to save the lives of many innocent people?
My hon. Friend makes an important point that speaks to the civil liberties that we have in our country. People who suspect that a friend, relative or someone they know has become radicalised or that their mind has been poisoned should come forward, secure in the knowledge that everything that we do in this country happens under the rule of law. We cannot send out that message clearly enough.
In this age of terrorism, will the Prime Minister indicate to us how safe are the British people?
I do not set the alert levels; they are rightly set independently by a group of experts. The level is currently “severe”, which means that they believe an attack to be highly likely. The next step is “critical”, which would mean that a threat was imminent. That would not normally happen until there was intelligence that a threat was in some way imminent. I say to the British people that we should go about our lives and that we should be vigilant and work with the police and intelligence services where we can. We must never give in to the threat that the terrorists pose, because they want us to change our way of life and to live in fear—that is what “terrorism” means.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that for terrorists to pursue their evil trade as effectively as possible they require training, and that training requires territory? Action to reduce ISIL’s territory, whether it be in Iraq, Syria or anywhere else, is therefore a vital component to ridding the world of these evil people.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and what he says relates to the point that Ian Austin made. Much of our policy over recent years has been about closing down the ungoverned spaces where terrorists are able to stay and train. That is why we cannot sit back from all these things. It is why we are engaged in trying to make Somalia into a proper, functioning country. It is why we took action in Afghanistan to try to stop that country being a haven for terror. It is why we cannot stand by while there fails to be a Libyan Government. We have to work harder to bring about some rule of law and order in that country. We do not do this because we believe in military adventurism; we do it because we want to keep people safe in our own country. That is what it is about.
May I join the Prime Minister in expressing cautious optimism that the Vienna process could advance the prospects for a sustainable peace in Syria? That is important not only because of the huge numbers who have died there and the millions who have been displaced; the horrors of Paris and Beirut remind us of its importance in defeating Daesh. May I emphasise the importance of there being a strategy when he comes back to the House with his response to the Foreign Affairs Committee report? I understand that he will want to advance the case for military action, but a lot of us will be looking at how that fits into an overall strategy, including the involvement of regional powers.
I hope that I am able to reassure the hon. Gentleman. There is a strategy, which we need to lay out more clearly, of combining the political settlement with the military action that I think is important and the involvement of neighbouring countries. In the end, we have to decide whether to take such action as part of a strategy. That is my aim in the document that I will produce.
I fully welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. President Hollande has used the exact words that France is “at war” with Daesh. In Vienna, John Kerry said that we have to “defeat Daesh”. This evil organisation wants us to call it Islamic State or ISIL to give it the legitimacy and appeal that it wants. Can we join our counterparts and use the word “Daesh” to ensure that we use the right terminology?
My hon. Friend is slowly winning that battle. The use of the word “Daesh” is increasing with every issue of Hansard that is published. He is right about the evil we face. This group carried out the attack in Paris and they would be equally content to carry out an attack in Belgium, Sweden, Denmark or here in Britain. They do not not do it because they feel that we are somehow different; they just have not managed it yet and we have to stop it.
May I direct the Prime Minister back to the alarming reports that 450 violent jihadists returning from the middle east have been readmitted to the United Kingdom? Will he give a firm undertaking to the House that he will not rule out any action against those individuals, however robust, tough or draconian, including revoking their passports in order to protect the British public?
My hon. Friend is right to make that point. We have a system for trying to examine everybody who returns in such a way. As I said, some people will come home completely disillusioned with what they have seen, because it is an appalling regime with appalling practices, but there are people who we will have to keep a very close eye on, and use all the powers at our discretion.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on his courage and leadership at this time. There is a clear need for a new strategy, and that must come from within this House. Is it time that right hon. and hon. Members took the decision to step out in support of the new strategy, and to protect all the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
My right hon. Friend is aware that Lancashire constabulary is one of the UK’s leading forces in fighting radicalisation and terrorism. Will he update the House on what further steps we can take to ensure that our security services and police forces co-operate fully with each other?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have announced additional funding for our security forces, and I have said what I said about counter-terrorism policing. We must continue to work on the Prevent programme, and I am sure that that will be addressed by the Home Office in its spending review.
May I raise with the Prime Minister disturbing reports of the firebomb attack that took place in the early hours of this morning against the Al Sarouk cultural centre in Bishopbriggs, which is used by my Muslim constituents? May I also alert him to the grotesque racist attack faced by my colleague, Humza Yousaf MSP, on social media? Will he join me in condemning some of the inflammatory statements in the press that attempt to link innocent Muslims with extremism?
I certainly join the hon. Gentleman in condemning those attacks. We should be equally clear that just as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are wrong, right-wing extremism and attacking people for their religions is also completely wrong. It is vital that we are equally vehement about all those things.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I am sorry to disappoint remaining colleagues, but the statement has lasted for an hour and a half. I thank the Prime Minister for his brevity, and I say gently to colleagues who did not get called that if their colleagues who did get in had been a bit briefer, they would have been called. We must help each other.