UK Terrorism Threat Level

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Conor McGinn Conor McGinn Shadow Minister (Home Office) 1:33 pm, 5th November 2020

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for early and advance sight of his statement. I know that the Home Secretary also spoke to the Leader of the Opposition this week. It is important that the House and, indeed, the country know that there is unity of purpose between the Government and the Opposition on these matters.

I start by extending our heartfelt sympathy to the victims of the recent attacks in France and Austria. Our hearts go out to the family of Samuel Paty and to those who lost loved ones, killed in the most horrific and senseless way, in Vienna and Nice. I am sure that many Members will join me in sending solidarity and support to our friends and allies, the citizens of France and Austria, who have experienced this assault on their values, their freedoms and their way of life.

I have been clear from this Dispatch Box that we on the Opposition Benches consider it our first responsibility to keep this country, its people and our communities safe. We will be forceful, fair and robust in supporting the fight against terrorism and crime in all its forms. We therefore wholeheartedly support the decision of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre that the terror threat be raised from substantial to severe, and we share the Government’s view that this decision should not cause undue alarm. It is a precautionary move, but it demonstrates the importance of us all remaining vigilant, building up our current capabilities and closely monitoring existing threats. We are deeply grateful for the work of JTAC alongside our security services and our counter-terror policing, who continue to carry out vital work to keep us safe.

I would, however, like to ask the Security Minister a few questions. First, what is the Government’s strategy for enacting and reinforcing these heightened measures? Will the Minister outline to the House how regularly JTAC reviews the terror threat level, or is it on an ad hoc basis? We welcome the proactive response from the head of counter-terror policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, whose work and team I pay tribute to. He said that the police had “activated…established planning mechanisms”, increased “levels of visible patrols” and implemented wider security and protection measures. Will the Minister inform the House what additional resources have been made available to counter-terror police, the UK intelligence services, UK law enforcement and their operational partners to keep the public safe, in line with the heightened measures? Public communication will also be vital to the efficacy of these changes, and at a time when public health messaging has been uniquely bombarded and we are asking a lot of the public in terms of interpreting and co-operating with it, how can the Government ensure that they are successfully promoting a strong, clear and consistent message on public safety in this regard? What routes are available to the public for reporting suspicious activity?

Can the Minister confirm to the House the status of the independent review of the Prevent strategy? We feel that this is long overdue and it has a vital role to play as part of the holistic, preventive approach to tackling terrorism. Will the Government provide additional border and port checks in Great Britain as part of the measures? Does the Minister continue to be satisfied that a separate assessment for Northern Ireland continues?

We have faced our own challenges in this country, as the ongoing inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack demonstrates only too well. The citizens of France and Austria are enduring this pain now. We know that we can never let terror or extremism, whether from Islamism or the far right, divide or undermine our core values or diminish our way of life. It must always be met with a robust and decisive response. Keeping the public safe is our shared priority. We support today’s decision and urge the British people to remain vigilant and, as ever, steadfast.