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Northern Ireland: Security Situation

– in the House of Commons at 5:55 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 5:55 pm, 21st January 2019

With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement to the House following the terrorist attack in Londonderry on Saturday evening.

As the people of the city and those visiting were making the most of the renowned hospitality on offer, a crude, unsophisticated but dangerous explosive device detonated as brave Police Service of Northern Ireland officers were clearing the area. CCTV released by the PSNI shows teenagers and others passing by only minutes before the device detonated. It is sobering to think that a truly sickening outcome by those responsible was only narrowly averted.

First, I would like to pay tribute to the police and other emergency services that responded so magnificently in the immediate aftermath of the attack. It was through their urgent actions that we are not facing circumstances in which there could have been casualties or even fatalities. A nearby hotel was busy, a fundraising event was taking place in a hall adjacent to where the device exploded and elderly residents in sheltered accommodation were all within yards of the explosion. Those who planned this attack and placed this crude device in a busy city centre have absolutely no regard for the people who live and work there.

Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that there are a number of security alerts ongoing in Derry/Londonderry today. We are being kept informed of developments by the PSNI, which is working hard, along with other agencies, to ensure that this sort of mindless disruption is minimised.

Let us be clear, however, that those behind the attack will never succeed. Londonderry is a city that has thrived since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement 20 years ago—everyone can see that—and one that will continue to grow and develop despite the actions of those who seek to sow discord and division. That is why the city has sent a clear message in the wake of this attack—that these people and these actions have no place in their city. Political leaders, the business sector and those offering hospitality to a growing number of visitors to Northern Ireland have all spoken out to challenge those who seek to continue with these violent and futile acts. The wider community in the city have also united their voices in condemnation, and we should all listen carefully to what they say.

To be clear, the city remains open for business. Londonderry chamber of commerce condemned the attack, but was clear that it would not

“deter us from opening today and getting on with the job.”

The bottom line is that voices across the political, business and community spectrum are united. This is intolerable violence, which has absolutely no place in our society. We all want to look forward and build a peaceful future for Northern Ireland. The small number of people responsible for this attack have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland and will not prevail.

Violent dissident republican terrorists operate in relatively small, disparate groupings. Their campaign of hatred and violence is, unfortunately, nothing new. Law enforcement pressure has reduced the number of national security attacks in Northern Ireland. In 2018, there was only one national security attack, compared with five in 2017, four in 2016 and a total of 16 attacks in 2015. Although there has been a reduction in the overall number of national security attacks in recent years, vigilance in the face of the continuing threat remains essential. The current Northern Ireland-related terrorism threat to Northern Ireland, or NIRT threat, is “severe”, which means that an attack is highly likely. This attack does not change that threat level.

Although there have been many successes by the police and others, it is clear that dissidents remain intent on killing. In attempting to impose their unwanted control on people across Northern Ireland, these groupings also choose to ignore democracy and consent principles that have been, and will continue to be, central to the political process. The Government have consistently made it clear that terrorism will not succeed and tackling it continues to be of the highest priority. We are determined to keep people safe and secure across the whole of our United Kingdom.

Derry is a vibrant city with a bustling economy and an exciting arts and cultural scene, as demonstrated in 2013 when it was the UK’s city of culture. Success breeds success. That is also why the Government have backed Londonderry and will continue to do so. Building on the £350 million commitment we have made towards a Belfast city deal, the UK Government are equally committed to delivering a comprehensive package of economic support for Derry and Strabane. A city deal for Derry and Strabane will boost investment and productivity, generate jobs and deliver growth and prosperity, and that activity has been supported by a number of visits by UK Government Ministers.

At the Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened formal negotiations for a Derry and Strabane city region deal. Those negotiations are under way. It is crucial that this unique opportunity is grasped to unlock the economic transformation that the region needs and deserves. But it is not just the UK Government who are backing Derry/Londonderry. From all across the world, businesses recognise Londonderry for the great place that it is to do business. Whether it is financial services firms such as FinTrU or IT company Alchemy Technology Services, new jobs are being created every day in the city.

Finally, and in direct opposition to the kind of ideas and barbarism advocated by those responsible for Saturday’s attack, Londonderry continues to shine as a beacon of culture and progress on the island of Ireland, as a major tourist destination and as a host for world renowned events such as the Clipper round the world race. As Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said yesterday, it is not dissident republicans who hold the ground in Londonderry—it is the community. Anyone who has any information should pass it to the police or anonymously to Crimestoppers. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 6:02 pm, 21st January 2019

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement and for giving the statement on an issue that merits parliamentary time. Like her, I am bound to welcome the fact that no injuries resulted from the bomb attack on Saturday, but that was not for want of care from those who planted the bomb. As the Secretary of State said, innocent bystanders were very close. Congratulations are due to the Police Service of Northern Ireland officers who went forward at personal risk and successfully evacuated the area and hotel. They deserve our thanks. I join the Secretary of State in that message of congratulations.

It is right that the attack should have received universal condemnation across the different communities in Derry, from the Democratic Unionist party through to Sinn Féin. The House of Commons now has an opportunity to add its voice to that condemnation. As a city, Derry has seen enormous progress over the past 20 years. Some businesses will have been affected by Saturday’s attack. Will there be, where appropriate, the necessary support for them to get back up and running? We also know, of course, that some 40 families are out of their homes in the Creggan. Can we be assured that all due care is being taken to look after their welfare?

I now turn to the security situation, which has been severe in Northern Ireland over at least the last decade and more. I strongly welcome the 300 extra PSNI officers that the Secretary of State announced recently, but those were Brexit-related additions who will take time to train. The PSNI is still well below its Patten-recommended numbers. Will the Secretary of State talk to the Chancellor so that the PSNI numbers return to the levels necessary to confront the challenges of ordinary policing, as well as the type of situation that the service faced over the weekend?

This United Kingdom of ours faces many different challenges. My own home city of Manchester saw that not so long ago in the arena, and we know about the attacks that took place outside the House of Commons and other attacks. The security services are under some strain. The right hon. Lady will not want to comment directly on the security services, but may we have an assurance that there is an adequacy of security personnel, particularly as far as Northern Ireland is concerned?

We have to consider things that have a material impact when it comes to security. Symbols and words make a difference in Northern Ireland. I was grateful to hear the Prime Minister earlier rule out any changes to the Good Friday agreement; that is right and proper. However, we still hear talk from Members about the possibility of crashing out of the European Union—a hard Brexit, which will mean a hard border across the island of Ireland. That is irresponsible. I hope that the Secretary of State will join me in saying that that cannot be allowed to happen. We cannot give succour through the erection of a hard border to those who would do us harm.

Normal politics do not function at the moment in Northern Ireland. If the reconciliation process that began 20 years ago under the Good Friday agreement is to advance, we need a return to normal politics. If politics cannot offer change and the hope of change, frankly we give an easy gift to those who would do us all harm. We cannot allow that. I say to politicians from Northern Ireland in this House and beyond that it is now time for them to take responsibility and take the venom out of politics. It is time for them to take the risk of beginning to establish the institutions that we need to make democracy work. Take that risk and get the Stormont Assembly back up and running. People have to commit to that.

I gently say to the Secretary of State that she cannot put the return of Stormont into the “too hard to handle for now” box. There has to be some urgency in bringing Stormont back together. May I ask the right hon. Lady two specific things? First, will she commit now to resuming the five-party talks that could see a return to normalcy and to politics delivering change? That is fundamental in the light of what happened on Saturday. I also want to make her an offer, which she may want to take up. I will travel with her to Derry to meet local politicians in the local community to show that this House of Commons is absolutely unified in its condemnation of terror and its desire to say that there is a better way. Politics must offer that better way.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I thank the shadow Secretary of State for his comments, including his thanks to the PSNI, and for his steadfastness with the universal condemnation of everyone in the House of the act on Saturday night and other activities. I will be visiting the north-west again soon, as I do regularly. I will check my diary and see whether we can do some sort of joint visit. [Interruption.] It looks as if more than one shadow Front Bencher wants to come. The hon. Gentleman made a good point in saying that that would send a clear message across Northern Ireland about the commitment of this House to their safety, security and prosperity.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the security situation and the numbers of PSNI officers. I want to be clear with him that the Government have always protected and provided funding for counter-terrorism-related work in Northern Ireland—£230 million in the last Parliament and £160 million in this one. On top of that, cross-Government spending on counter-terrorism right across the UK will increase by 30% in real terms over this Parliament. With the Home Secretary sat next to me, I can also give the hon. Gentleman the comfort he needs that there is adequate funding, so that our security services and others can do their difficult work.

I want to repeat what the Prime Minister said in her statement. Despite press reports, there is absolutely no desire on the part of anybody in this Government to see anything other than the full upholding of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement—our commitment and those structures and institutions. I, too, want those structures and institutions to be back where they should be. I want politicians in Northern Ireland to be in that Parliament building on the hill in Stormont—busy, active, making decisions and doing the right thing by the people of Northern Ireland.

I want those talks to resume as soon as possible, not least because things such as the North South Ministerial Council are missing—it is not just the institutions. Those are important matters, as are the ones the Prime Minister spoke about in her statement on our future relationship with the European Union and the role of the devolved Administrations in that.

I want to make one final point to be clear that nobody should try to draw any connection between what happened on Saturday night and any of the discussions we are having in the House or with our friends in Europe. The attack on Saturday night is the result of a threat level that has been in place since before the Brexit vote. Those people have been working and trying to carry out these plots and activities for many years. We need to be clear that those activities are not welcome—the people of Northern Ireland do not want that kind of activity on their streets—and that they have absolutely nothing to with Brexit or anything close to it.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

I thank the Secretary of State for her statement, and for its measured and above all balanced tone. I also welcome the comments of the shadow Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State mentioned the PSNI. This could have been a hideous incident and it is very much thanks to the professionalism of the PSNI officers who spotted a suspicious car and then very professionally moved people away that there was no injury. She mentioned the significant funds that the coalition Government gave to the PSNI and the security forces—we thwarted a large number of incidents thanks to that. She provided a very welcome £16 million just before Christmas for another 300 officers but where is that money? Has it been given to the PSNI and when will it be transformed into real officers on the streets?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My right hon. Friend has significant experience and knowledge of Northern Ireland. He is right to give credit to the PSNI. I have spoken to the Chief Constable a couple of times over the last three days—inevitably—and I too have paid tribute to those individual officers who turned up for what they believed would be a normal Saturday evening shift to find themselves confronted by that incident. Their bravery and actions are why this was not a far worse incident.

It would be better if I write to my right hon. Friend so that I can give him absolutely clarity on exactly where the PSNI funding is and how long it will take to recruit those 300 police officers.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement.

The utterly shameful and cowardly attacks carried out in Derry on Saturday evening, along with the ongoing incidents in the city, are a reminder, if any were needed, that many of the terrorists have not gone away. For the avoidance of doubt, SNP Members utterly condemn these pointless and shameful attacks and welcome the five arrests that have been made thus far. On behalf of the SNP, I extend our thanks and praise for the rapid response of the PSNI and the emergency services to these incidents. Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the delivery driver whose van was hijacked after a gun was held to his head.

Lords amendments to the Counter-terrorism and Border Security Bill will be debated tomorrow in the House, which I look forward to, but other interventions in the House from many on the Conservative Benches, who make spurious and uninformed assertions on the backstop, the border and the Good Friday agreement, risk making an already fragile situation more dangerous if they get their way. I fully accept that Saturday evening itself had little to do with the current situation, as the Secretary of State said. However, as it is, it is clear that the current vacuum at Stormont is not conducive to a stable political situation. The European Research Group approach should not be given any consideration whatsoever.

In response to the shadow Secretary of State, the Secretary of State said that she wanted to restore the institutions that were formed to uphold the Good Friday agreement, but will she outline what steps the Government are taking to do so and what is being done to prevent groups such as the new IRA from taking a foothold?

The frontline of counter-terrorism is community police, community groups and others. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to strengthen frontline resources and services? If positive action is taken on the last two steps, she will certainly have SNP support.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support. It is for future activities but I appreciate it.

I have visited the Strand Road police station in Londonderry on a couple of occasions to meet frontline officers—that is such an important part of the work done by the PSNI. PSNI officers from all parts of the community serve in Derry/Londonderry, which is incredibly important because it means that they can be true community officers on the ground, understanding what is happening through their intelligence work. Although there was a coded warning, the PSNI officers had identified the vehicle and had started to take action. The hon. Gentleman is also right to comment on the delivery driver. It must have been a horrendous experience for a pizza delivery driver to find a gun at his head and to be put in that situation. There can be no excuse for the activities of the terrorists on Saturday, which we condemn fully.

On the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, I reiterate what the Prime Minister said earlier. We are steadfast in our support for the agreement, but the hon. Gentleman is right that there is a power vacuum in Northern Ireland. I want it filled. I am not sure that the ERG has a specific policy on it, but it probably agrees with me in wanting to see politicians in Northern Ireland back doing the job they were elected to do, which is making decisions on behalf of their constituents.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

It is pleasing to hear that lots of Ministers and shadow Ministers will visit Londonderry in the months ahead. My Select Committee—the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee—will visit in the very near future. There may be no politicians at Stormont, but there will be plenty in the great city of Londonderry.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the most striking thing in the past few hours has been the reaction of the people of the city of Derry, who are clearly revolted by this latest outrage? Will she consider accelerating the negotiations on the Derry and Strabane city deal, because prosperity is exceptionally important in ensuring that such things do not happen?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I thank the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. I am absolutely sure that its members will enjoy themselves immensely in what is a wonderful, welcoming, friendly and vibrant city. He is right that there have been, and will continue to be, a number of ministerial visits, including from my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and from me.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer visited and wanted to meet people to talk about the Derry and Strabane city deal. My hon. Friend is right that prosperity is the answer. If people see a bright future for their city, they want to stand tall and fight for it. They want to stay and work and enjoy jobs and opportunities.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the reaction of the people of Derry/Londonderry has been extraordinary. It sends a clear message that the people of Northern Ireland do not want a return to the troubles of nearly 21 years ago. They want to go forward with peace on their streets.

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Reform and Constitutional Issues), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit), DUP Westminster Leader

I join the Secretary of State in saying that parties and communities across Northern Ireland are utterly united in their condemnation of this terrible event. I also join her in praising the work of the PSNI and the emergency services, who have provided and continue to provide safety and security on the streets of Northern Ireland.

I also welcome what the Secretary of State said about this being unrelated to the current debate on the EU. It is also somewhat unrelated to what has happened in Stormont. The murders that I referenced earlier, which were committed by those same people, happened during a time when we had devolution and functioning democracy in Belfast at Stormont. Let us not legitimise in any way what these people are about by ascribing to them a cause. These people want to destroy communities on both sides and they want to disrupt. They want to bring nothing positive and have no agenda whatsoever. Therefore, I totally support what the Secretary of State said in that regard.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The right hon. Gentleman puts the point extremely well. There is no excuse and there can be no justification whatever for those activities. He is right: these are activities that have gone on for far too long. A very small number of people—but determined people—want to cause damage. But he is right: we are all united. It reminds us that there is far more that unites us than divides us. We should all bear that in mind. I thank him for his comments. I agree with everything he said.

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon

This is a reminder that there are those still at large in Northern Ireland who choose the bomb over the ballot box. I join in all the tributes to the PSNI and the emergency services for yet again doing such a great job. This is nothing to do with Brexit at all, but the geographical location of Londonderry reminds us of the existence of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, so will the Secretary of State confirm that cross-border co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI is important and is working and that, as far as they are concerned, in pursuing these people, there will never be a border between them?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that, when you stand in Londonderry, you see the border is there—it is not a distant thing. People are travelling to and fro across that border every day to go to work and to doctor and hospital appointments, and to see family and friends. He is also right about the cross-border co-operation. The co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI has never been stronger, particularly as the commissioner of the Garda, Drew Hendry, was the deputy chief constable of the PSNI. It was very moving that Drew Hendry attended the national police memorial, which was held in Belfast in October, in his An Garda Síochána uniform to show solidarity with police services across the whole United Kingdom.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

I, too, thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement. This incident is of a sort that we all hoped belonged in the past but, in truth, those of us who are briefed regularly by police and security services in Northern Ireland have long known that this was not just possible but likely. The men of violence only have to get lucky once. This, though, should be an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. It should be the moment when all parties of Northern Ireland understand the importance of giving a democratic response to a provocation of violence. This is why it is important that we have all the democratic institutions in Northern Ireland functioning. Will she inject fresh impetus to that process, if necessary bringing in an outside mediator to get things moving?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

May I correct the record? I said Drew Hendry, but I meant Drew Harris. I apologise for that.

The right hon. Gentleman is right that the terrorists only have to get lucky once. Our security services and the PSNI have to continue to be lucky the whole time. They do incredible work and, from the briefings he receives, he will know just how much hard work happens. The threat level is “Severe”, which means that an attack is likely.

Nigel Dodds made the point that there is no excuse for the situation, but Mr Carmichael referred to the situation at Stormont and is right to say that politics can overcome violence—it overcame violence in 1988 and it will continue to do so. It is important that the politicians now do the right thing. We want to see them back in Stormont and making the decisions that need to be made on behalf of their constituents.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury

I completely agree with the Secretary of State when she completely disassociates any kind of violence from the Brexit negotiations. I recognise that we cannot in any way give the terrorists who carried out this attack any political credibility at all, but surely it would be better if all the parties in Northern Ireland were taking part in discussions at Stormont. Can she confirm that it is only one party that is preventing that from happening because of the red lines it has drawn?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I do not want to be drawn by my hon. Friend, who as a former Chair of the Select Committee knows politics in Northern Ireland better than most. I do not want to be drawn on the ongoing discussions and debates. All I will say is that I want to see the parties come back together, and we are working to find a mechanism by which we can do that.

Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Chief Whip, Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business in the House of Commons)

I echo the comments of Tony Lloyd on the need for a return to normal politics—I agree with that—but it is not a normal situation when, in part of a democratic country, we have a situation where five parties form an Executive and only one of those five parties refuses to allow the formation of that Executive. Surely, when we get Stormont up and running again, as I hope will happen soon, we need to look at reforming the system, so that it is precisely what the hon. Gentleman described: normal politics.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that we want to see normal politics, but there is something extraordinary about the situation in Northern Ireland. We have bi-party Government at times. That is something unusual; I think it is unique in the world. He talked about reforming the system. That must be a matter for the politicians in Northern Ireland. The UK Government stand ready to support the politicians in Northern Ireland to do what they need to do and what they want to do in order to make politics in Northern Ireland work and to have a sustainable Executive for the long term.

Photo of Bob Stewart Bob Stewart Conservative, Beckenham

Compared with attacks in the past, this blast was somewhat amateur, in so far as the warning was given to the Samaritans in the west midlands and the blast was not that effective, thank God. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we now need to put all our efforts into identifying who these people are, to stop the encouragement of more people joining them?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My hon. and gallant Friend is right that this was a crude device. He mentioned the Samaritans. I should make the point that the warning was not given specifically to the Samaritans in the west midlands; when the Samaritans were called, the next adviser available happened to be in the west midlands. That is the way in which the Samaritans operate the system to ensure a speedy pick-up for people who call them. He is right, however, that it was a crude device and that we are very fortunate that it was not more successful, shall we say; we have not seen any injuries as a result of it. We should all be grateful for that.

Photo of Owen Smith Owen Smith Labour, Pontypridd

I join the Secretary of State in condemning this reprehensible act. I agree with her and other hon. Members who have said that there is no political excuse for it, but we are now fully two years since the breakdown of power sharing in Northern Ireland. This has been a salutary lesson and a reminder that violence can fill a political vacuum in Northern Ireland. What is she going to do to try to kick-start the talks that the peace process is built on?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Gentleman has significant experience in Northern Ireland, having worked there in the 1990s and 2000s and served as the shadow Secretary of State. As he knows, I continue to speak to all the main parties in Northern Ireland to find a basis on which we can bring the talks together. There is no point in just demanding that the parties come together and expecting that that will work. It has to be done on the basis of an appropriate framework and to have some possibility of success. That is what I am working to find.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

I appreciate the Secretary of State’s remark that it only takes a very small number of terrorists to have a disproportionate effect, and I appreciate the significance and sensitivities of ongoing investigations, but can she tell the House whether any arrests have been made—the BBC has already reported that they have been—and, if so, whether any of those arrested are connected with identified Irish republican groups?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The PSNI has said on record that it has arrested five people, but it would not be appropriate for me to comment further as the investigation is ongoing. As my right hon. Friend will appreciate, it would also be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage because of the ongoing security incidents in the city today.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I live in Londonderry, three miles from the scene of the bombing, and some of my constituents were in the vicinity, although they were thankfully unharmed. I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, particularly her call at the end for information to be given to the police. May I go further and ask her to respond positively to the offer from the Labour spokesperson? She is aware of a group called Unity of Purpose in Londonderry. All of us politicians regularly meet business people and others in the private sector not only to condemn such violence, but to take steps to ensure that information is given to the police and that those apprehended are brought before the courts. A positive response to that offer would be a physical manifestation of solidarity with us all.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Gentleman welcomed me to Londonderry a few months ago—it was an honour to be there—and introduced me to several of his constituents. I was very warmly welcomed. His idea about Unity of Purpose is a very good one, and we will look into it.

Photo of Jack Lopresti Jack Lopresti Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke

The requirement on the PSNI to investigate the past puts pressure on its ability to investigate and police the present. Given the present threat level, does my right hon. Friend agree that we must find a better way to investigate legacy cases in particular?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I agree with my hon. Friend, and that is why we have consulted on how to reform the system for dealing with deaths in the troubles—to enable the PSNI to police today, not the past.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

This attack should be condemned, and I welcome the support given to organisations in Londonderry/Derry promoting peace. The Assistant Chief Constable has said that the New IRA was involved. Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is a proscribed organisation, and that proscription brings with it the potential for intelligence-led policing and could permit other offences, such as that of supporting those who perpetrated this act, to be brought before the courts?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I can confirm what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

Photo of Paul Masterton Paul Masterton Conservative, East Renfrewshire

The Secretary of State pointed out that Londonderry was the first ever UK city of culture in 2013. Can she confirm, particularly in the absence of devolved government, that the UK Government will step in to provide whatever assistance is needed on the ground to keep the local economy flourishing, as it has been doing in recent years?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The shadow Secretary of State raised that point, but I did not respond to it, for which I apologise. He and my hon. Friend are right that affected businesses and residents will need support. We will need to consider exactly what is needed and what the UK Government can do to support them.

Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall

The Secretary of State has welcomed, as we all welcome, the overwhelming condemnation of this dreadful car bombing. I also welcome her clear statement that no one can make Brexit an excuse. We all have to be careful about the words we use in Northern Ireland, so will she use this opportunity to say that she regrets talking about border polls in the context of Brexit? Her comments were condemned by Alex Kane, a very eminent journalist who writes for newspapers on both sides of community, as

“both stupid and deliberately provocative”.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

He was talking about rumours and supposition; I have never spoken about any of those matters in public.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Conservative, South Dorset

As a former soldier who served in Northern Ireland, may I point out the courage of the police and others who responded to this terrible bombing? The IRA and these terrorist thugs have an unpleasant habit of planting follow-up bombs, which are not uncommon. Unlike others, those people run towards these areas, so there is always the chance of the rescuers themselves being blown up. Does my right hon. Friend have any plans to look at the law surrounding the sentencing of these thugs? In my view, those who have no regard for life should spend the rest of theirs in jail.

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I agree with my hon. Friend, who has personal experience in Northern Ireland, about the extraordinary character of the officers in the PSNI. We should all pay tribute to them for serving every day in the face of that threat. On sentencing, I think he is referring to the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, which was agreed following the Good Friday agreement and the referendum of the people of Northern Ireland, and relates specifically to troubles-related deaths, not to the criminality we see in Northern Ireland today.

Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Labour, St Helens North

What happened in Derry at the weekend was a disgrace and ran contrary to the wish of the people of that city and Northern Ireland to live in peace. Does the Secretary of State agree that a robust policing and security response is required, and that we need to concentrate now on ending the political vacuum that allows these anti-peace process elements to thrive?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Of course we need a robust police response, and that is exactly what we are seeing, but we also need a strong community response, and that again is what we have seen. I know that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the way in which the community has united in condemnation of this act. It has no place and is not what the people of Northern Ireland want. On the restoration of devolved government, as has been said, there is no excuse for what happened and there can be no link to the lack of a sitting Executive but, that said, we do need a sitting Executive.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

When one visits Londonderry, it is remarkable to see what a friendly and open city it is. It is not a city that should be defined by a handful of extremists who have never accepted the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland or the peace process, whatever excuse they might now try to advance for their actions. Does the Secretary of State agree it is vital that our security services are given all support possible to deal with the situation and that the people involved feel the full force of the law?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to make sure the PSNI has the powers it needs to operate, along with the security services, in doing the fantastic job it does. The reduction in the number of incidents is a great testament to the work of the security services and the PSNI, and we want to make sure that that continues.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. How will she ensure the PSNI has enough resources to investigate not simply this despicable incident, but the terrorist cell going by the name of the New IRA? What Home Office support has been sought to make available all the skills and resources needed to uncover and deal with the terrorist cell on British soil? Have any discussions taken place with the Garda Síochána to prevent IRA activity in Donegal, just across the border, in terms of weapons, bomb-making materials and training?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

A number of the hon. Gentleman’s questions are of an operational nature and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on operational details, suffice it to say that the Government stand four-square behind the PSNI in the work it does.

Photo of Bill Esterson Bill Esterson Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (International Trade)

The 300 extra officers announced have been welcomed, including by constituents of mine from Northern Ireland, but they are for Brexit planning. As my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said, the number of officers is still below the number recommended for the PSNI. In the Secretary of State’s conversations with the police and security services, how many more police officers do they say they want to deal with the ongoing security threat?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The PSNI and the security services do a fantastic job every single day in thwarting plots to disrupt life and to cause injury and harm to innocent civilians in the way we saw on Saturday night. As was said earlier, the terrorists need to get lucky only once; we must work relentlessly. The Government consider business cases for additional resources, as they do all such business cases, to determine what is appropriate.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

The Secretary of State will know that there is a severe terror threat in Northern Ireland, but only a moderate terror threat here. Will there be any alteration in the terror threat here as a result of Northern Ireland terror that could permeate the national border?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland is severe, but the threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Great Britain is moderate. Those threat levels are assessed independently of the Government. We are governed by the assessments of the security services and others in determining the threat levels.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

The current Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has overseen a deterioration in cross-border relations because of his belligerent behaviour towards Britain during the Brexit negotiations. Notwithstanding the hysterical reaction of the Irish Government to Britain’s decision to leave the EU, can the Secretary of State assure us that, not just at a police level but at a political level, security co-operation continues?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

All I can say is that relations between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána are at an all-time high and continue to be good. They work towards the same ends: to thwart the terrorists wherever they may be operating.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

I join in the condemnation from Members on both sides of the House of this appalling terrorist attack, and welcome the strong community response from the good people of Derry. The Secretary of State referred to ongoing negotiations for a city deal. What progress has been made in those negotiations?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

All city regions that apply for city deals must go through a process, but negotiations are ongoing, and work is being done by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Treasury to ensure that the Derry and Strabane city deal can be delivered.

Photo of Emma Little Pengelly Emma Little Pengelly Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (International Trade)

Last week I met representatives of the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland to discuss the fantastic job that police officers and the Prison Service do there in very difficult circumstances, in the face of the incredible threat posed by the terrorists. As the Secretary of State will know, they have not received a pay award for some years, unlike police and prison officers across the rest of the United Kingdom. One reason for that is the absence of any Minister, but another is budgetary. Will the Secretary of State undertake to do all that she can, particularly in the current budget round, to ensure that police and prison officers working in those conditions are given the reward that they deserve?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Lady is right to mention not just the PSNI and the security services, but the prison officers who are working under immense pressure and do a fantastic job. She is also right to highlight the decisions that need to be taken by Ministers in Northern Ireland with regard to public sector pay. The UK Government are currently undertaking budget-related work. There are restrictions and limits when it comes to what I can do as Secretary of State, because many of these matters are devolved, but I note the points that the hon. Lady raises.

Photo of Gavin Robinson Gavin Robinson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Defence)

I echo the condemnation that has been expressed, and, indeed, the praise for the police and other emergency services. As my party’s Defence spokesperson, may I specifically mention the ammunition technical officers who are deployed all too frequently in Northern Ireland? They were deployed three times a week in 2015 and once a week in 2016, and they are still being called regularly—every week—to a dangerous situation, be that related to bombs, improvised explosive devices, under-car booby traps or hoaxes. I believe it was wrong when, in 2017, the Cabinet Office refused to honour those great servicemen with a general service medal. Given their activities last night, two years ago—when Adrian Ismay was killed in my constituency—and each and every week in dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat, may I ask the Secretary of State to engage with the Defence Secretary and the Cabinet Office to right that wrong?

Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The hon. Gentleman refers to yet more incredibly brave individuals who work hard to ensure that we are all safe, and that the people of Northern Ireland, in particular, can sleep soundly in their beds. Sadly, on Saturday night, a number of people managed to get through so that some were not able to do that, which is something that we do not want to see. As for the hon. Gentleman’s specific point about recognition for those individuals, I suggest that he takes it up with the Secretary of State for Defence, but I will raise it with my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office as well.