Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

– in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 24 April 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee 6:33, 24 April 2024

We now come to motion 3. The Order Paper notes that the draft order has not yet been considered by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. I have now been informed that the Committee has considered these instruments and has not drawn them to the attention of the House.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 6:34, 24 April 2024

I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2024, which was laid before this House on 22 April, be approved.

I am grateful to the House for its consideration of this draft order, which will see the Terrorgram collective proscribed. The Government assess that the Terrorgram collective operates as an organisation, in accordance with the guidance on the meaning of that term found in section 121 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The Terrorgram collective is the sixth extreme right-wing group to be proscribed, along with 75 groups proscribed for extreme Islamist or other ideologies. This is based on the level of direction provided by its leadership for the preparation of propaganda campaigns and the co-ordination between the network to advance its neo-fascist, accelerationist ideology.

Article 2 of this order adds the Terrorgram collective to the list in schedule 2 to the 2000 Act as a new entry. Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Government have concluded that the Terrorgram collective should be proscribed. While I am unable to comment on specific intelligence, I can provide the House with a summary of the group’s activities.

The Terrorgram collective is a transnational online network of neo-fascist terrorists who produce and disseminate violent propaganda, with the aim of radicalising readers and encouraging individuals to commit acts of terrorism. The message of hatred it preaches is one of extreme white supremacism. It calls not just for death and violence but for the collapse of western democracy itself, so that the collective might build a whites-only world in its place.

The Terrorgram collective has published three long-form, magazine-style publications, as well as a 24-minute documentary video. This propaganda is designed to incite violence towards perceived representatives of the establishment, ethnic minorities and other minority or religious communities. It not only celebrates the abhorrent cycle of violence and death that it means to inspire; it worships it, glorifying the collective’s genocidal peers as so-called “saints” and encouraging readers to commit similar acts. The Terrorgram collective specifically celebrated Anders Breivik, who killed eight people with a car bomb before shooting dead 69 people at a youth camp in Norway in 2011, as a so-called “saint.”

The Government have determined that the Terrorgram collective is an organisation concerned in terrorism. For example, in February 2023, a key contributor to the Terrorgram collective was arrested for allegedly plotting attacks against the Baltimore power grid. The Terrorgram collective is involved in preparing for terrorism through the dissemination of instructional material in its propaganda. It promotes and encourages terrorism through its publications, which contain violent narratives and material that glorifies previous extreme right-wing attackers and encourages those who consume the content to commit similar actions.

In October 2022, an extreme right-wing terrorist attacked a gay bar in Slovakia, resulting in the murder of two people. In his attack manifesto, the perpetrator credited Terrorgram’s publications. Since the attack, Terrorgram now glorifies him as an example to follow. The decision to proscribe Terrorgram demonstrates this Government’s commitment to defending the security of the LGBT community.

Terrorgram holds vile antisemitic views. It has published propaganda material aimed at inciting violence against Jewish communities and the state of Israel and, most recently, celebrated Hamas’s attacks on Israel, including endorsing the use of terrorism to target Israel and Jewish communities. Reporting indicates that Terrorgram has advocated for attacks on Israel’s critical national infrastructure. This proscription further demonstrates our unwavering commitment to fighting antisemitism and our unfaltering support for the Jewish community.

The safety and security of the public is paramount. It is, and always will be, this Government’s No. 1 priority. The ongoing fight to counter and contain terrorism in all its guises is an essential part of that mission, as is standing up for the values we cherish. When our collective security and values are threatened by groups such as the Terrorgram collective, we will not hesitate to act. I therefore urge Members to support this proscription.

I commend the draft order to the House.

Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 6:39, 24 April 2024

I thank the Minister for his statement and I thank civil servants at the Home Office for briefing me in advance of the debate.

Today’s proscription order for the Terrorgram collective, also known as just Terrorgram, is brought about by the exceptional men and women who serve in our intelligence and security services, in government and in our police. They perform a vital public service, and I thank them for it. We on the Opposition Benches will always work with the Government on these crucial matters of national security in order to stop the malign forces that seek to harm us, divide us or undermine our way of life.

Let me say at the outset that the Opposition support the proscription of Terrorgram as a terrorist organisation. Terrorgram takes the form of an online network of neo-fascist terrorists, who produce and share violent material that incites violent, extreme right-wing activity here in the UK and abroad. Even after our nation’s existential fight and victory over fascists almost 80 years ago, their threat to our security and our way of life has never completely gone away. We must always defeat fascism wherever we find it. That is why it is important that the order before us will amend schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000 to add Terrorgram to the list of proscribed organisations. Doing so will make it a criminal offence to engage with the Terrorgram group, to promote support for it or to display its logo.

Terrorgram’s name derives from it being a group on the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, so we very much welcome the innovative approach to proscription outlined by the Minister. Even though Terrorgram is without a physical presence in the UK, its online presence, which glorifies terrorist acts and shares bomb-making materials, is a threat to our national security. The Minister cited a number of examples. I will refer to the attack in Slovakia in 2022, where the threat posed by Terrorgram became a deadly and tragic reality, when a 19-year-old assailant killed two people in an LGBT nightclub. He later took his own life but left a manifesto that thanked Terrorgram for

“building the future of the white revolution one publication at a time”.

We approve of the Government’s innovative action that will lead to the rightful proscription of Terrorgram. Within legal frameworks, there must be an approach that is relentless, agile and cunning to defeat all terrorist groups. Regardless of whatever warped ideology they peddle, violent extremists across the spectrum continue to use online platforms to radicalise their support base and organise their activities. We must prepare to proscribe more online groups, if that is necessary.

These online groups—online cesspits—regularly feature violent misogyny, an abhorrent trait that is a common feature in all terrorist ideologies, including extreme right-wing terrorism. As the Minister will know very well, the Prevent programme currently does not recognise violent misogyny and incel ideology as extremist ideologies. Will the Minister provide an assurance that the appropriate frameworks are in place to bridge the gap between violent misogyny and recognised extremist ideologies?

Today’s proscription of Terrorgram comes after the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published the Government’s definition of extremism in March. Although long overdue, we believe this definition of extremism is welcome and will lead us towards better countering some of the causes of terrorist threats to our country. As the Minister would acknowledge, the new definition was always intended to be the beginning of a process to better counter extremism, not the process in its entirety. What progress has been made between the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on publishing a list of organisations designated as extremist?

Terrorgram’s corrosive influence must also be viewed in the wider context of rising hate crime across the UK.

Since 2018, police forces in England and Wales have recorded increases in reports in four out of the five hate crime strands—race, sexual orientation, disability and transgender. Furthermore, since 7 October, the Community Security Trust has recorded a 147% increase in antisemitic incidents compared with 2022, and Tell MAMA has recorded a 335% increase in anti-Muslim hate cases in the past four months alone.

The Minister will know that the last hate crime action plan was published eight years ago. He knows more than others that proscription is an incredibly important means to counter extremist activity, but it is not the only means. A new hate crime action plan could be part of the arsenal to disrupt and defeat violent extremism. Can the Minister say what plans the Home Office has to publish an updated one?

To conclude, proscribing Terrorgram is the right thing to do for our national security. It was no longer tolerable or safe for the poison of Terrorgram’s violent ideology and terrorist material to be in reach of malign actors in our country. It had to be treated with the strongest and most robust antidote: proscription. We welcome that the UK is the first country to do so. No Government can ever relent in their determination to ensure that, as a country, we are always one step ahead of those who seek to harm us, to divide us or to undermine our way of life. This House must always stand united in protecting the public whom we strive to serve and protect. That is why we strongly support this proscription order.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:46, 24 April 2024

The SNP firmly supports this order as well, and believes that no organisation should be free to spread extremist hate and encourage violence in the UK, so it is absolutely right that the Terrorgram collective is proscribed as a terrorist organisation. I heard the Minister mention that Terrorgram is the sixth extreme right group to be proscribed and, as I understand it, it is the first online network to be proscribed in this way, and I welcome that he has taken that step.

Tech Against Terrorism, which also welcomed this proscription, has been tracking and reporting on Terrorgram’s content for some time and has stated that it sent alerts on this content to seven different platforms, only four of which have removed it. I understand from the explanatory notes that this order now gives the Government the power to compel platforms to take down such content. Has the Minister had any communication with Tech Against Terrorism, or has he instructed these platforms to take down this content, because it has no place on them, especially given this proscription order from today?

I understand that the Huffington Post has named a woman in the US, Dallas Humber, as Terrorgram’s propagandist and a narrator of some of its content. As this is, to some extent, an issue of human rights abuses, is it possible that we can look at proscribing an individual under our existing Magnitsky legislation? Could the Government put restrictions on this woman, who has been named as perpetuating hate online, or any other individuals who are involved in setting up this site? These people should not be allowed to travel around the world. If this women were to travel to the UK, for example, she could speak to people in the real world as opposed to just online. Will the Minister take that away and consider whether something of that kind is indeed possible?

Can the Minister give us an up-to-date assessment of far right groups, as the Government and the various intelligence agencies are picking up on this and giving it such a high priority, especially given the scenes that we saw on the streets of London earlier this week? Extremism does not begin with organisations such as Terrorgram or with the atrocities that people inspired by Terrorgram have committed. It starts at a much lower level, and people, via the algorithms that these sites use, get exposed to more and more extremist content. Has any work gone into tracing how some of these people got to very extreme content, and what steps could have been taken to remove content at a less extreme level before they got exposed to something that radicalised them to the point of carrying out atrocities?

There is prevention work to be done here. I have seen various cases where somebody came in with a concern about lockdown and is now a serious anti-vaxxer because they saw more and more extreme content, and then got exposed to more far-right content and more dangerous content as a result. There is a job of work to be done to deradicalise people who have been exposed to such material. What are the Government doing, and what thoughts do they have on how they might go about deradicalising those who have been exposed to far-right content? It is a very serious threat to our democracy and the safety of people, particularly minorities, in the UK. I do not think that it is quite being taken seriously enough.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 6:50, 24 April 2024

On behalf of the Democratic Unionist party, I add my support to the Minister for his proscription of Terrorgram. He clearly outlined the issues that are pertinent to the announcement. I express concern over the radicalism that seems to persist throughout society. It seems to happen in ways that I, perhaps from a non-technical point of view, cannot really understand, but I understand that the name of the organisation—Terrorgram—tells us all about this group. Its very intention is evil and wicked. Its intention is to kill and to maim. The Minister’s announcement today encourages us, as he often does when it comes to these matters.

The Minister’s announcement that the UK is the first country in the world to proscribe the Terrorgram collective is positive, and proactive by him and the Government. This group spreads vile propaganda, with evil—indeed, murderous—intent, and there is absolutely no place for it in modern society. The Minister rightly reminded the House, and myself in particular, that the group is anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. Terrorgram’s hatred of Israel and the Jewish people is to be condemned unreservedly. I commend the Minister on the Government’s response and their support of Israel within the law, which they have given the whole way through. On this issue, the response is critical. I was a friend of Israel when I was in the Northern Ireland Assembly some 14 years ago—I was there for 12 years—and I have been a friend of Israel here. I am therefore encouraged by the Minister’s comments in relation to the support that he has given the Israeli people and the Jewish people in the face of downright hatred. The Terrorgram collective must be proscribed, and it must be made criminally impossible for them to operate in any fashion, so today’s announcement is good news.

Does the Minister agree that social media plays a massive role in the distribution of horrific comments and opinions? While it may not entirely be the issue today, does he agree that much more needs to be done legislatively for platforms such as Telegram, and indeed others that are used by people to spew hatred, whether that be TikTok, Twitter or any other? I unashamedly say that I do not have the ability to do technical things, but I am pleased that others do. Technical change can happen at breakneck speed. Does the Minister intend to ensure that when anything comes on the radar of our Government, Parliament will respond immediately to proscribe it? Perhaps he can give us some idea of the timescale when something comes to the attention of the House, the security forces or others. Will he respond in an urgent manner?

Again, I thank the Minister and our Government for the proactive way that they respond. It encourages me as a citizen, and on behalf of the people of Strangford, the people of Northern Ireland, and indeed all the people of this great nation that we love.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 6:54, 24 April 2024

I welcome all the comments made, particularly by my hon. Friend Dan Jarvis. He has been a friend for many years and we have worked together on many different operations in many different parts of the world—although very few were quite as vile as this one, I am afraid; Terrorgram is a genuinely horrific organisation. He raised some interesting points about the protection of the Jewish community, and he is absolutely right. The Community Safety Trust, which he and I both support, will receive an additional £54 million in funding to continue to provide measures until 2028. As he knows, that commitment was made only a few weeks ago by the Prime Minister.

My hon. Friend also quite rightly raised the incidents of anti-Muslim hatred that Tell MAMA has recorded. He is completely correct that we have sadly seen an increase in that area as well as in antisemitism, and he will know that we have also been very clear that those organisations, mosques and schools that require extra support and protection can get it from the Home Office—indeed, many have been applying, and I have had the privilege of ensuring that they are able to get the funding they need for their own security, to prevent harm to anybody in the Muslim community as well.

I want to touch briefly on some of the areas raised by Alison Thewliss, who made some interesting points about an individual. If she will forgive me, I will not speak about that individual in particular, but I will say that proscription works against organisations and is not an individual power. However, she is also aware that sanctions do work against individuals and, where we are aware that individuals are connected to such hateful organisations—certainly if they are connected to proscribed organisations, as I am confident Terrorgram will be very shortly after this debate—there is no way that somebody like that would be, in the legal term, conducive to the public good, and there is no way that they should be allowed access to the United Kingdom.

The hon. Lady also raised an interesting point about St George’s day. I must say that I have been to many St George’s day lunches, at the very generous invitation of individuals who, when I was still in uniform, used to be very kind. I can see my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central remembers them too. We used to get invited to lunches in various parts of the country—my latest was in West Malling—and I may say that while we sat down for lunch at midday, I do not remember when we stood up from lunch. That was a great day of celebration and a fantastic moment for all of us. What we saw yesterday was no celebration of St George’s day or English national patriotism; it was simply thuggish violence and it has no place on our streets.

On tech, the hon. Lady is absolutely right that, sadly, it is very easy to go down a rabbit hole or a tech black hole that leads to an amazing warren of hate-filled conspiracy theories. This is an area where tech companies themselves have a responsibility to play their part. I have engaged with them in many different areas, including child sexual abuse online, which she knows I have devoted a lot of time to combating. However, this is another area where she is quite right that there is more work to be done and more responsibility on those who are profiting from the attention of individuals across the world.

The last point I want to make is on the definition of extremism. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central knows very well that this is an important piece of work. There is more work to be done on the actual list, as he rightly says, but I will bring it forward as soon as we ready to do so. He will understand that we want to make sure it is as robust and complete as it possibly can be, but he will be among the first to know as soon as it is ready.

I have seen some truly harrowing material in this job, but the scenes from the attack on the gay bar in Slovakia, where innocent people were gunned down in cold blood, ranks among the absolute worst. The manifesto written by the perpetrator advocated the murder of gay people, Jewish people and black people—not for anything they have done, but for who they are. Make no mistake: this was not just an attack on the LGBT community, and the Terrorgram collective is not just a threat to our national security. This was an attack on the values and principles that define who we are, and who we are as a nation. The Terrorgram collective is a threat to our society. There is no place whatsoever for the vile ideology espoused by the Terrorgram collective. We will not tolerate it. Proscribing it is a proportionate and necessary step in our ongoing effort to tackle terrorism, protect the public and defend our values. We will never relent in showing terrorism for what it is: a poisonous, corrosive force—

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means), Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee, Chair, Restoration and Renewal Programme Board Committee 7:00, 24 April 2024

Order. Before the Minister sits down, I have to put the Question on the deferred divisions motion.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 41A(3)),

That, at this day’s sitting, Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply to the Motion in the name of Secretary James Cleverly relating to Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism.—(Aaron Bell.)

Question agreed to.

Debate resumed.

Main Question again proposed.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

And with that, Mr Deputy Speaker, I commend the order to the House.