London: Terrorist Attacks

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:37 pm on 20th July 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers) 3:37 pm, 20th July 2005

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made a short while ago in another place by her right honourable friend the Home Secretary. As ever, our thoughts go first to those who were killed or injured on 7 July and to their families—innocent lives touched by evil actions.

I want to put on the record our thanks to the Government for bringing the House up to date today and for the Home Secretary's courtesy in keeping opposition parties informed about developments privately over the past two weeks. During that time, Britain has shown that it can and will come together to fight this new breed of terrorism that stalks our land. That terrorism is extraordinarily calculating. The Kings Cross atrocity, with its calculated trail of evidence deliberately leading back to the cities of northern England, was designed to demoralise and divide our communities and to set Muslim and non-Muslim citizens against one another.

It is to this country's enormous credit that that, in large part, has not been allowed to happen. British people of all religions and none have stood together in the face of this appalling evil. As a result, almost two weeks from that terrible Thursday morning in London, the terrorists and all those who harbour and support them know that they have simply not won.

Our united response to the terrorists stems from three separate sources. First, there are the police and the security services, to whom I pay great tribute. They have come under great scrutiny since 7 July. We must never forget that when a terrorist gets through, it is a very public matter; but when that terrorist is thwarted, it very often remains secret. The services have acted with tremendous speed to identify those responsible and continue to display the utmost professionalism in tracking down those behind them. In doing so, some have had to work in hideously unpleasant conditions.

The second source is the Government and Parliament. We pay tribute to the calm and measured way in which the Government have conducted themselves over the past two weeks. They have been quick to come forward with effective proposals to update our anti-terrorism laws, which are welcome. We commend the Home Secretary for accepting our proposals to separate consideration of control orders from the new legislation and for his commitment, given today, that normal parliamentary procedures and timetables will be followed in both Houses.

The first new offence he proposes—acts preparatory to terrorism—is something that we have proposed for some time. For the benefit of the House, can the Minister clarify the difference between this and the alternative proposals of criminalising "conspiracy" or "attempting" to commit terrorist acts?

I also welcome the new law on the indirect incitement of terrorism. It is, indeed, much better focused than the alternative proposals that have been suggested in the past.

Much of the effectiveness of this new law depends on the detail of the drafting. Will the Home Secretary ensure that early drafts are available for both Houses, as soon as possible in September, so that informed and interested parties, both within and outwith Parliament—I am thinking, in particular, of the Bar and the Law Society—can pass their judgments on the proposals and help constructively to improve the law?

Perhaps I may take this opportunity to remind the Minister that we on these Benches continue to believe that allowing the use of phone-tapping evidence in court could help even further.

Will the Government look again at the security of Britain's ports? Can the Minister tell the House what actions the Government are taking to ensure that all British ports have the proper establishment levels of Special Branch officers and other appropriate personnel?

Finally, the attacks demand an active response from the community itself, particularly from prominent members of the Muslim community in Britain. They have already shown great leadership over the past two weeks, and Muslims in communities across our country have responded quickly and openly to requests for help from the security services and the police. The Home Secretary and my right honourable friend David Davis met senior members of all faiths and community groups this morning and they fully understand that the best way to fight this home-grown terrorism is by rooting it out at its source. They have a clear responsibility to act, but there are several things that the Government can do to help.

We strongly welcome the Home Secretary's announcement today about strengthening his powers of exclusion. Will the Government consider going further by looking at training more Imams here in Britain so that they are comfortable with the society in which they preach? We also hope that the Government will look at what they can do to deal with the disaffected young people who travel to madrassahs in the region of Pakistan where schooling in terrorism seems to be rife. Action on this issue would be extremely welcome.

Many words have been expended over the past two weeks as people from all areas of British society and beyond have united in their condemnation of the attacks. As time goes on, those words will increasingly turn into demands for action. With the proposals set out by the Government this week, they have shown themselves ready to meet that demand. I am happy to say that we continue to stand foursquare in readiness with them.

Ultimately, tackling terrorism in Britain will be a combined effort with politicians, the police, the security services and the whole community working together. That is what we have seen over the past two weeks and that is why we have been able to make progress in identifying those who committed the atrocity, tracking those who supported them and learning lessons to improve our defences in the future.

If, in the days ahead, we are able to carry that forward, our society and our country really will have come out of this ordeal stronger. That, I think, must be the finest tribute we can all pay to those who were killed or injured on our streets nearly two weeks ago.