Report on Recent Terrorist Attacks

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 5th December 2017.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Home Secretary 1:50 pm, 5th December 2017

I thank the Home Secretary for prior sight of both the report and her statement. It was sad to read the report and to reimagine, and almost relive, the terrible terrorist incidents that we have seen this year, but it must be infinitely sad for the relatives of the victims and for the survivors. As the Home Secretary has said, the thoughts of everyone in the House are with those relatives and survivors today.

The report is by way of a quality assurance of a series of internal reviews. As David Anderson himself points out,

“internal processes have potential downsides: complacency, the concealment of unpalatable facts and slowness to see the need for change.”

It is important that David Anderson endorses, as far as he feels qualified to do so, the conclusions and recommendations of the internal reviews. As the Home Secretary observed, David Anderson notes that MI5 and counter-terrorism policing got a great deal right in relation to the attacks as a whole. However, he also says that

“the Manchester attack in particular might have been averted had the cards fallen differently”.

Labour Members believe that that is a telling phrase.

As the Home Secretary noted, Salman Abedi was a closed subject of interest and was not under active investigation, but MI5 came by intelligence in the months before the attack which—as David Anderson puts it—had its true significance been properly understood, would have caused an investigation into him to be reopened. He was identified as one of a small number of closed subjects of interest who merited further consideration, but, sadly, the meeting to discuss that was scheduled for 31 May, and the attack on the Manchester Arena took place on 22 May.

One of the most important recommendations in the report is the need for better sharing of intelligence. Will the Home Secretary say more about the multi-agency pilots, and about where her discussions with my colleague Andy Burnham, the former Member of Parliament for Leigh and the Mayor of Manchester, are going? I think that he would like to know that as well.

The Home Secretary concedes that linked to the implementation of review recommendations are resources. As we say on this side of the House, you cannot keep people safe on the cheap. The Home Secretary will shortly be announcing the budgets for policing in 2017-18. She talks about ensuring that those involved in counter-terrorism policing have the resources that they need, but David Anderson comments that

“the indicative profile of their grant allocation over the next three years sees a reduction of 7.2% in their budgets.”

Does the Home Secretary accept that comment, and does she agree with David Anderson’s remarks about the reliance of MI5 and counter-terrorism agencies on community policing? Does she accept that proper funding for community policing is at least as important as resources for counter-terrorism proper?

Community policing is the frontline of the community’s defence against terror. I thank MI5 and the counter-terrorism agencies for their great work on these matters and convey to them the respect in which they are held by Labour Members, but I must repeat that this comes down to resources, not just for counter-terrorism as such but for community policing.