Counterterrorism — Statement

– in the House of Lords at 3:52 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism) 3:52 pm, 24th March 2009

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary entitled, "The United Kingdom's Strategy for Countering International Terrorism". The Statement is as follows:

"Mr Speaker, I have today published the revised version of the Government's strategy for countering international terrorism. Protecting the safety of everyone in Britain is the primary duty, and abiding obligation, of government. Recent events in Northern Ireland were a chilling reminder that the threat of terrorism has not left our shores. They demonstrate the need to continue to adapt our approach so that we can deal with this threat wherever it emerges.

As we set out in our CONTEST strategy today, the greatest security threat we face comes from Al-Qaeda and related groups and individuals. Our aim will always be to reduce the risk to the United Kingdom and our interests overseas from international terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.

We know that the threat is severe. We know that an attack is highly likely and could happen without warning at any time. And we know that this new form of terrorism is different in scale and nature from the terrorist threats we have had to deal with in recent decades. This new form of terrorism is rooted in conflicts overseas and the fragility of some states. It is grounded in an extremist ideology that uses violence to further its ends. It exploits the opportunities created by modern technologies and seeks to radicalise young people into violent extremism.

The threat now comes from the Al-Qaeda leadership and its immediate associates located mainly on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, as well as from its affiliates and from others, including rogue individuals, who espouse similar views. As honourable Members across the House will know, not least my right honourable friends my predecessors, on whose important work this strategy builds, these groups have planned a succession of attacks against the United Kingdom, with the aim of causing mass casualties. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of people, we have had considerable success in stopping terrorists in their tracks and bringing those responsible to justice. I pay tribute to their work. We have disrupted over a dozen attempted terrorist plots in the UK, and since 2001 almost 200 people have been convicted of terrorist-related offences.

But the threat remains and is always evolving. This strategy takes that into account, draws on what we have learnt about how to counter it, and reflects the increased resources we have rightly made available to keep Britain safe. In recent years, the number of police dedicated to counterterrorism work has grown from 1,700 to 3,000. The Security Service has doubled in size. We have trained tens of thousands of people throughout the country in how to prepare for and protect against a terrorist attack, and we are working with communities to prevent the spread of violent extremism. We currently spend £2.5 billion on countering terrorism. By 2011 this will rise to £3.5 billion, the majority of it on the main focus of work—pursuing terrorists wherever they are and stopping their attacks.

The CONTEST strategy remains centred on four key areas: "Pursue", "Prevent", "Protect" and "Prepare". We have updated each of these. "Pursue" will make use of new resources and new legislation available to the intelligence agencies and police to investigate and disrupt terrorist networks here and overseas, and to prosecute those responsible.

"Prevent" will reach more people than ever before, as we step up our efforts to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting violent extremism. This reflects our better understanding of the causes of radicalisation and includes new programmes and new partnerships with communities here and overseas.

"Protect" aims to strengthen our defences against an attack, through a strong border, improved resilience in our critical national infrastructure and greater protection for the crowded places where we all live, work, shop and play.

"Prepare" will limit the impact of any attacks that do occur, with tens of thousands of emergency services workers, security guards, store managers and others trained and equipped to deal with an incident. Every region of the country now has plans to deal with an attack, and so to improve our ability to recover and ensure a return to normal as soon as possible. There is also dedicated cross-government work on the specific threat posed by terrorist use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons and explosives.

The vital work to counter terrorism cannot be done by central government, the police and agencies working alone. That is why this revised strategy is based on work right across central, devolved and local government, together with our international partners and with local communities. In addressing both the immediate threats and their longer-term causes, and how we will deliver action at a local, national and international level, our aim has been to publish as full and as open an account of our work as possible.

The strategy also draws close links with other government policies that are essential to its delivery, including conflict reduction, our international aid programme, counter-proliferation, our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and our support to communities here, building cohesion, empowerment and equality in this country. The strategy is also closely coordinated with the national security strategy, published for the first time last year.

The challenge that all of us in this House face is to strike the right balance between measures to protect security and the right to life with the impact on the other rights we hold dear. CONTEST is based on clear and unambiguous principles. And my approach to protecting Britain's security in the face of the terrorist threat will always be underpinned by our core shared values, including the protection of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic and accountable government.

The Government have sought that balance at all times. But we remain uncompromising on a number of issues. We oppose the use of torture in all its forms. We have always condemned the practice of extraordinary rendition and will continue to do so. This strategy is comprehensive and wide-ranging. In publishing it, my primary aim is to reassure the British people that we are doing all in our power to protect this country through our relentless pursuit of terrorists and our determination to prevent violent extremism. We continue to depend on the determination, engagement, and vigilance of all in Britain to keep us safe. I commend this Statement to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Jones Baroness Neville-Jones Shadow Security Minister, Home Affairs 3:59 pm, 24th March 2009

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. On behalf of your Lordships' House I express my dismay that once again documents published by the Government were released to the media before being introduced to Parliament. That is not acceptable.

The attacks in Mumbai and Lahore show us that the international terrorist threat we face remains real and is constantly evolving. The updated counterterrorism strategy makes this point and outlines the complex nature of the threat. The importance of having the right strategy to guide the public servants who work tirelessly to protect us each day therefore cannot be underestimated, and I pay tribute to those who engage in this work. It is also right for the Government to communicate it openly to the public and to involve all of us actively in increasing our own safety. We on these Benches consider the framework for CONTEST—the four Ps: pursue, protect, prevent and prepare—to be sound, and we are glad that the Government have kept them as the framework for the updated strategy.

The issues we are discussing today affect our national security. I am sure that the House is united in wanting to support all necessary action to combat terrorism. The Opposition certainly support the Government's efforts to tackle the terrorist threat. It is a threat to us all, not just a physical threat but one to the values of one of the world's oldest liberal democracies. But is also our role on these Benches to hold the Government to account for their implementation and delivery of the strategy, and to point out where we think they have made important mistakes, or where aspects of policy are wrong. We know that very good work has been done under "protect" to strengthen our critical infrastructure and address the threats to public and crowded places and it is certainly right that this work should continue. We also know that the pursuit of terrorists has been relentless. Our intelligence and security agencies have been expanded and regional counterterrorism units, a model of best practice worldwide, have been established, and this has contributed to the disruption of a number of significant plots.

It is right that, as the nature of the terrorist threat evolves, so our intelligence and security capabilities are developed to meet it, but I add a note of caution. In improving our ability to pursue terrorists we must be careful that the security measures we take do not undermine our values or change the nature of our society. The Government were not able to justify their proposal to extend pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects to six weeks, which is why these Benches so strenuously opposed it. Similarly, we do not accept the Government's claim that in order to protect us and look after us it is necessary for them to accumulate vast quantities of our personal data, or to impose identity cards on us all.

We are greatly worried at the risk to our privacy from the collection of communications data, particularly as the strategy itself on page 68 says that the Government will,

"exploit new data analysis and information sharing and management tools".

I might add "if Parliament permits", since the necessary legislation has yet to come forward. We are also concerned that, in the light of the type of attacks we saw in Mumbai and Lahore, we need a more structured contribution to homeland security tasks from our Armed Forces. Our first responders have asked for this, but the strategy appears to say that the military contribution will remain restricted to specialist capabilities. This concerns me.

In responding to any attack it is vital that the public are prepared. We back the Government's action in broadening knowledge of the terrorist threat to thousands of people who work in public places in our shopping centres, leisure centres and sports grounds. Over the past few days it has been reported that 60,000 people or more have received training to help stop attacks. Presumably, this is under Project Argos. Can the Minister provide further detail on what type of training they have been given? Is it merely a voluntary three-hour course, including a coffee break, as the project's website says? The Prime Minister and the Minister said that they were trained and equipped. We would be curious to know more. How do the Government intend better to prepare other members of the public for the risk of attacks?

Just as the public have a vital role to play in helping to spot suspicious activity, so there is a vital role for those who help to tackle the drivers of terrorism, and the strategy makes this point. It says that we need to increase "the resilience of communities" and that there is a,

"duty on all of us ... to challenge".

Here, I must ask the Minister: to challenge what? On this point, the strategy seems confused. In various places, it says "violent extremism" and in other places it says,

"the ideology behind violent extremism".

Can the Minister give us a definition of violent extremism? Surely, violent extremism refers to the physical act of terrorism, but challenging the physical act of terrorism comes too late in the day, does it not? We need to tackle the extremism that encourages or drives people to this point. The Government must shift their "Prevent" strategy from preventing violent extremism to preventing extremism per se, and it is very disappointing that the Government have not taken the opportunity, in revising their strategy, to take on this point in an unambiguous fashion.

Of course, people have the right to campaign peacefully for change in our society, but the state does not have to give these groups its blessing, and it is quite another thing to have these groups openly suggesting that it is not possible to be both British and Muslim, advocating separatism and rejecting participation in society. This sows division between communities, and when a climate of hatred, fear and mistrust exists, so the pool of people who are vulnerable to radicalisation continually increases. This argument applies whether we talk about al-Qaeda or about those trying to destabilise the peace process in Northern Ireland. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, makes this point forcefully in an article in the Times today. Can we have an assurance from the Minister that, in their engagement with groups and especially when spending taxpayers' money, the Government will do so with the aim of breaking down community divides? Will they conduct an evidence-based review of projects under the Preventing Violent Extremism programme to ensure that projects meet this objective?

The strategy is not wrong to say that there is a duty on all of us to tackle extremist ideas and hatred. Writing recently to the Muslim Council of Britain, the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security said that we must mount civil challenges against those who promote extremist positions—that is how he put it—that actively seek to undermine our values. How can the public be expected to do this if the Government do not set an example and seem confused? The Government must be unashamedly tough on those who advocate hate and who foster a climate of extremism, but they have not completely banned the terrorist organisation Hezbollah and they have not shut down terrorist websites under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006. Their progress on deporting foreign nationals who pose a threat to our security has been very slow, and they do not have a good track record of refusing preachers of hate and extremists entry into this country.

The Government are right to ask us all to stand up and meet the terrorist challenge, but they must facilitate that and set an example. "Prevent" lies at the core of counterterrorism. It has to deal with the tough issues that we face in this country, and the Government will be judged by its delivery. I look forward to the Minister's replies to the points and the questions that I have put to him.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson for the Home Office 4:09 pm, 24th March 2009

My Lords, I thank the Minister for updating us on this strategy. We heard version one of the strategy in 2003, which necessarily concentrated on the role of the security services. In 2006, it was expanded into the "Prevent" strand by recognising the nature of the home-grown threat. Today, we seem to have a more rounded version, although it is hard to detect any new direction in thinking.

On "Pursue", there has certainly been lots of new enabling legislation and some successful prosecutions. I join in the tributes paid to those who brought them and all the work that went before them. The Government, as the Minister said, have increased the spending, which remains on track from when the previous strategy was published.

I agree with the Government's statement that the time has come to recognise the fact that this fight cannot all be conducted behind closed doors and that there needs to be a stronger emphasis on what happens in the open-door scenario. The "Prevent" strand is admirable, but it was rather spoilt this morning on the radio. I join the Conservative Front Bench in expressing sadness that the policy was launched, as always, on the "Today" programme and in the media, rather than in Parliament. The launch was also spoilt by the muddle that the Home Secretary got herself into when she talked about which groups would benefit from funding, which groups would be friendly, and the giving of money to them by the Government to counter terrorism. Actually, we have laws to prevent incitement, a fact which she seemed to overlook. The more that she wished simply to fund those who would counter terrorism in our communities, the deeper was the hole she was digging.

I am sure that the House will want to hear from my noble friend Lady Falkner of Margravine, with all her experience, on the complexity of the issues that are being dealt with. For example, I remind the House that only yesterday Ms Blears decide to break links with the Muslim Council of Britain.

As regards the "Protect" strand, of course we should protect our critical national infrastructure. It would be useful to learn more details on just where the fragile points of that are. The Minister may like to brief on that in private those of us in opposition responsible for speaking on this subject. When one thinks of radiological or biological weapons—a dirty bomb— the work on non-proliferation and on verification of nuclear material is urgent. I welcome the Prime Minister's speech last week on nuclear issues when he talked about the importance of a "proliferation-proof" nuclear fuel cycle. No doubt, we will have an opportunity to hear more about that on Thursday, when my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby introduces an important debate in this House.

On the "Prepare" strand, I was slightly reminded of the 1980s Home Office approach to a nuclear attack—so brilliantly parodied by Raymond Briggs in When the Wind Blows—which suggested hiding under the kitchen table. On training the 60,000, I agree that it is an admirable idea to train responsible staff, whether in shopping malls, sports venues or restaurants, to look after their venues. However, I have been told by someone who has been trained that their training involved a three-hour "multimedia show" with a coffee break. Perhaps the Minister could say how it is intended to build on that. The public need much greater involvement in a plan B to prepare for an attack. It was noticeable after the 7 July bombings here in London that the lack of mobile phone coverage threw many people into a real panic. The need for the public to have a plan B in that situation was very evident. We have not even had a drill here in Parliament. The last time there was an incident, Members were locked both in and out. That was inevitable but no one knew what was going on, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give that some thought.

The Statement talks about local authorities. Of course, for decades local authorities have been required to have a plan for emergencies that is regularly tried and tested. The Statement suggests that that is something new but, in fact, in most cases local authorities have been well ahead of the game.

I am surprised that the Statement does not mention education. I think that work in schools and colleges is critical, and we on these Benches would have put far more emphasis on that.

In terms of the international dimension, the Minister rightly mentioned issues in Pakistan. However, the Government continue to cut back on funding for institutions such as the British Council, and the BBC World Service, while concentrating on some parts of the world, continues to feel under threat every year. Those are two examples of very useful instruments for furthering the sort of approach that I think the Minister is talking about.

Finally, we support the Government's efforts on counterterrorism provided that there is no confusion between terrorists and innocent UK citizens who protest. The Government need to tighten up on the term "extremist". If they keep the terminology and the application of terror laws tight, they will have our support; if they misuse them, they will not. We do not want an excuse for invading privacy or for keeping databases; we want focused work, which we will support.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses for their comments, which I think overall I can take as a positive welcome for this document. I can only apologise that they were not able to have a copy earlier. I do not think that it was finalised until yesterday or the day before due to some final bits and pieces requiring work, and I apologise for that.

I have travelled the world and have been involved in this area for a long time, and I have no doubt whatever that this is the most complete, all-embracing and coherent document on counterterrorism produced by any Government in the world. We are already talking to the Americans about it and they are very impressed. It is built on the original CONTEST strategy. We have been working on its various aspects over the past 18 months—a year has been mentioned but it has been a little longer than that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked whether there was much new in it. There is a lot that is new. The whole of the initial assessment and delivery sections are completely new. The main chunk in the middle, concerning how we are going about this work, deals with things that have never been done before. It refers to the four Ps and looks at the cross-cutting measures of CBRNE, which has been touched on. It looks at industry, science and technology and innovation, and at how they are going to be linked into this. It looks at how the various government departments are going to work, and at how, for the first time, in "Prevent" we have something that goes from the community level in this country right through every layer to the international level—to Pakistan and elsewhere. This is a ground-breaking document. I absolutely accept that it is the duty of the noble Baroness's party to pick up various points in the document, but I hope that when noble Lords opposite read it and absorb it more, they will realise what a ground-breaking document it is. It is important because, as I think everyone in this House would agree, this is a very important issue that we have to grasp.

Of course, it is a living document and things in it will change. For example, we are taking into account what happened in Mumbai and Lahore. I have a report that I had hoped to take to the Home Secretary last week but it will now be this week. Certainly some of the things that I found are now being followed up and that means that parts of this document will change. The same applies in other areas: as we move, so things will change.

There was a certain amount of questioning from both noble Baronesses about the issue in "Prevent" and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, particularly talked about extremism and violent extremism. In the national security strategy with which I was heavily involved last year, there is a set of guiding principles that relate to what we believe in this country are our core values—the things that drive us in this country. Those core values were seen as the shared values that we reflected in the CONTEST strategy, which goes through in detail how we should promote those shared values within our society.

There was mention of the article in the Times this morning by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie. I fear that he has got the wrong end of the stick. The strategy explains clearly that we are careful about who we will give money to in promoting what we see as shared values. I do not recognise the figure of £90 million. I think the actual figure is more like £15 million overall. There are some people we do and should engage with, but if a group is anti those shared values, we will look at each one on a case-by-case basis and ask whether that organisation deserves public money. If it does not support our shared values, it does not deserve public money. That does not mean that it is against the law: that is a different issue entirely. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, said, we have very clear laws in this country that we can apply when we need to.

There was talk about the figure of 60,000. We have done a lot of the Argos training. Both noble Baronesses seem to be anti coffee breaks and we do tend to give people a coffee break when we teach them things. The Argos training is important. After the attack in Exeter, I asked people to go down and specifically ask the people in that shopping centre whether that training helped them. The answer was yes, very much so, in terms of keeping them calm and being aware of what they needed to do to avoid mass casualties. As regards the Tiger Tiger incident, in London, we know that the second bomb was placed so that if the building had been evacuated, it would have gone off and killed many hundreds. People are taught simple things that assist them—things to look for and that they can point out if something is about to happen. It is only for half a day, but it is important. We are also training 15,000 security guards in project Griffin and 10,000 managers in the private sector are involved with Secure in the Knowledge, so it is a much more composite and all-embracing project.

Can we do more and keep it going? The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, is absolutely right. It is something that we need to address. We need to look at how we update and keep this going so that people are aware of it. When we were going through CONTEST, I was adamant, especially in the "Protect" area, that I would not do anything that did the terrorists' job for them. I do not want to frighten the nation. Yes, there is a huge threat—we are at severe—but we should be able to live our lives. We should be able to work, play and travel. We should be able do all those things because if we put too many obstacles in the way of that in a so-called attempt to tackle terrorism, we have done the terrorists' job for them. That is not what I intended to happen and not what I want to happen. I am sure that we will not let it happen.

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, talked about proscription. It is a difficult area. We do not like some of these organisations, but there are strict guidelines and rules and they have to break the law for us to be able to proscribe them. That does not mean that within the structure of our society we cannot challenge those ideologies and have a debate about them. That is an important thing to do. That is what we mean about shared values: we should all be involved in that. We do not necessarily have to accept those views, but it does not mean that they are illegal. People are allowed to say what they want in this country. One of my sons said, "What if some mad person said, 'The only people who can stand for Parliament are those who know the value of a good forward defensive'? Would you actually give them public money to enable them to run with that?". I said, "No, but they are entitled to have that view". In exactly the same way, people can have views that we do not like, but we do not give public funds to support them in proselytising those particular views.

On the CBRNE side—and, again, I do not want to frighten the horses—there is no doubt that there is much greater availability of dual-use substances and a lot more about these things on the internet and in publications, which is why I have a real worry about this area. It is not because I have a huge mass of extra intelligence; we have a lot of intelligence showing that they have always been interested in it, but it is the other aspects. I do not believe that we have put as much effort into it as we should have done, but over the past 18 months, we have put a huge amount of effort into it. This has to go on; it is a rolling programme. We are closely linked with the Americans on this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, mentioned the internet. We have the legal powers in place but, until now, we have not really had to use them because in co-operation with the ISPs, which is very good, we have been quite successful. We have quite a good package on the internet side, and there is other stuff on that that I cannot talk about it, where we are having great success. This is a living document, and we have to keep moving, but we have come on in leaps and bounds and have achieved some very good things in that area.

I like the idea put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, about an exercise in Parliament. It could be quite an amusing day, or a half a day. I shall have to think about how such a thing could be done in terms of "Prepare" because we have done a lot of work on it. The noble Baroness referred to lack of mobile cover and things like that. Sometimes that can be done on purpose, so there are all sorts of funny aspects to how we run what happens after an incident. We have done a great deal of work there, and the more exercises we do, the better we get at it. We have trained more people from local government to be involved with these things. We issued the National Risk Register last year, for the first time ever, which enabled local government and the citizen to see the risks. These are important things.

The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, talked about the money we are investing in Pakistan. DfID has put in something like £90 million and the largest amount of our CT foreign spend is in Pakistan. We realise how serious this is, and we are doing a very good job there.

I hope that has answered most of the points. My key message is that this is a good document. People around the world will be looking at it. In the "Prevent" area, with all the massive complexities that both noble Baronesses referred to, we have tried to tackle something that no one else had really got to grips with. Now lots of countries are beginning to follow us. In some areas, they are doing some things better than us, but in terms of an all-embracing policy, they are not. I hope that answers the questions.

Photo of Lord Jopling Lord Jopling Conservative

My Lords, has the Minister had the opportunity of reading the report of the committee of House, of which I happened to be chairman, which reported within the past month on exactly the matters he has been talking about? Does he accept that a major CBRNE attack in any country in western Europe, including the United Kingdom, could completely overwhelm the resources to deal with it? He will be aware that NATO and the European Union have parallel command structures, resources and exercises to come to the aid of a stricken nation whose resources could not cope with an attack of this sort, and I include the United Kingdom in that. He will also be aware that, as our report demonstrated, NATO and the European Union barely talk to each other. They do not exercise together—indeed, the United Kingdom hardly participates in these exercises—and they run these parallel systems, which is ludicrous. Will the Minister explain why there is no reference in the Statement to the resources of NATO and the European Union? Now that France has decided that it will rejoin the central command structure of NATO, will the Government make renewed efforts to bring together those resources of NATO and the European Union to come to the aid of stricken nations, which should be done not separately but in unison?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, again, I go back to the point about not wanting to frighten the horses. The bottom line is that if one looked at CBRNE and came up with a worst-case scenario, it would be very easy to overwhelm any nation in the world, I fear. We have done exercises in this country specifically in relation to these issues. The Americans have done rather more complex ones than we have. We were very much involved in those exercises with the Americans. As I say, about 18 months ago we had perhaps not done as much as we should have done. We have done a great deal since, but it would be extremely foolhardy to say that we are there yet; we are not.

As always in all these areas, we could spend our entire national wealth on CBRNE countermeasures. That would clearly be stupid, because again we would be doing the terrorists' job for them and would have no money for anything else. One always has to balance risk with exactly what one can do. We have a project called Cyclamen, which we use to monitor the radiological and radioactive stuff that is coming in and out of the country. We have other things, which I cannot really mention, by which we are focusing on some aspects of this. We have done a lot of work in the "Prepare" area. We now have whole teams that are made up of volunteers from the ambulance services who can do triage and operate within the contaminated area when something goes on.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, is absolutely right; cleaning up after the murder committed with polonium took a huge effort. Cleaning up after something like a dirty bomb would also be terribly difficult. That does not necessarily mean that a lot more people will be killed, but the implications are huge. We do not underestimate this. We have taken a big cross-cutting measure across all the pillars. We are doing a lot. Yes, there is a long way to go. We have very close links with the EU. I have talked to Brussels about these issues. If anything, we are rather more prepared in some areas than it is, but we all need to be at that level.

I have not addressed the question of NATO and EU resources very closely, but I will ensure that my team does so after this debate. I am not sure at the moment of the exact status of those resources.

Photo of Lord Soley Lord Soley Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is important to reach out to the often young and vulnerable members of our society who fall for the argument that, just because bad things happen in a democracy, democracies are somehow no better than the often closed and authoritarian societies that they seek to criticise? Surely the real issue is not defining extremism, useful though that may be, although it can be a bit like chasing your tail, but how we reach groups that fall for that argument. Is it not clear that a democracy is not some organisation in which bad things do not happen but a situation in which, when bad things do happen, there are ways of getting redress through the courts, holding government or other institutions to account or many other measures that are not available in closed authoritarian societies? Surely that is the message that we have to get over to these people, who, as I say, are often young or from vulnerable groups. Members of both Houses have a real opportunity to lead on that. Perhaps we should try to find a way in both Houses of getting that message over.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I agree. My noble friend has opened up an area that demands a very complex answer, but I am tight on time so I will not give one. I agree that we absolutely have to engage with these people. We have achieved things with our "Prevent" strategy. For the first time ever, we have started to identify what makes someone become a violent extremist and what causes radicalisation. We do not yet know all the answers, but 18 months ago we did not have a clue.

We have done a huge amount of work, and to assess how successful this has been we have set up mechanisms by which we can learn key lessons. We have had the Pathfinder year, and the Audit Commission and the HMIC undertook a learning and development exercise. We are putting mechanisms into place to measure our success, but I would be lying if I said that it is easy to measure; it is really difficult. However, I am reassured by the fact that the vast majority of our Muslim population are absolutely on side with us on this. They absolutely abhor the violent extremists, and they do not like people who tend to lead people towards that route. That is very reassuring, and it makes me feel very sure about our success in the future.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister has slightly misunderstood what was said by the Front Benches about not having received the document a couple of days ago. The problem is not so much that we did not get to see it, although obviously that would have been very helpful, but that it was aggressively trailed by the Government through the media: the Statement was available on the internet several hours before the Print Paper Office had it. That is the point we were trying to make.

I should say to the Minister that I am the daughter of an intelligence officer. As regards the strategy of 161 pages, I would think that if you are talking about counterterrorism strategy, which by definition is predicated on not knowing very much—that is what the gathering of intelligence often is and you cannot have absolute certainty in what you know—investing so much, as I see on the face of it, detail, particularly where the detail is rather confused and contradictory, only adds to the confusion.

I will stick to the points I want to make on confusion. What the Government can do confuses us. On the one hand they talk, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, said, about violent extremism and on the other hand they talk about ideology. This morning, we were completely confused as to whether the Home Secretary was against unlawful acts, which I would have thought we were all against, or whether she wanted to put a chill through expressions and restrictions on freedom of speech. I think she said she was going to launch "civilian challenges" against people who said things of which she did not particularly approve.

I have the scars on my back. I took up and challenged Hizb ut-Tahrir more than once and have gone through a campaign of intimidation by Hizb ut-Tahrir against me personally and very publicly. But I would argue with the Home Secretary that the people to take on the challenges in terms of ideology in the community are those from within the community itself. It is not the role of the state, a particular government department or a particular Home Secretary to decide that right thinking rather than wrong thinking can go on in communities, which, if I might say, are very socially conservative.

Finally, the strategy seems to want to be all things to all people, so it says that it will address the grievances which these ideologies exploit. If the Minister had been here on 26 February and had heard the speech on challenges to foreign policy, he would have heard several noble Lords raise the issues of the challenges of not providing counterinsurgency training in Pakistan to the intelligence services; the problem with the ISI, whose head has only recently said that the terrorists have the right to think that way; and the other challenges that Pakistan faces. The Minister has told us that he has increased—

Noble Lords:

Order.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Liberal Democrat

My Lords, the Minister has said that he wishes—

Noble Lords:

Order.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness is the daughter of an intelligence officer. Just by that definition almost, she must be a good chap. In terms of how we approach the shared values, I would rather see this as promotion of the shared values, which were originally identified in the national security strategy and are now covered within CONTEST. It is very important that within that community those shared values are promoted, but it is incumbent on all of us to promote them.

On foreign policy and grievances—I will be short to let others ask a question—I am on record already as saying that foreign policy does have an impact. But when you argue and discuss this with people, which I have done, initially one gets quite a rough ride. But when you engage and talk about it, slowly people understand why we might have done what we did. They will not always agree with it, but it is not very helpful when we do not engage or get involved. We need to do that. This engagement, the understanding of some of those things and the promotion of shared values are all extremely important and I believe will move us in the right direction.

Photo of The Bishop of Southwark The Bishop of Southwark Bishop

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Statement, which obviously deserves further study. In the light of his answer to a previous question, is he aware that, perhaps by coincidence, the Department for Communities and Local Government this very day has put out a press release announcing an inter faith week to take place throughout the country in November? Does the Minister agree that good relationships between the faiths, and between each faith and the Government, is of supreme importance if terrorism is to be combated?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I was not aware of the inter faith week. Under the CONTEST strategy, all government departments are involved and linked into this effort, and I can tell the right reverend Prelate that that is no mean feat. I have been involved in trying to get things done on a cross-government basis since 1982, and sometimes it is like herding cats. But we have achieved it and the Department for Communities and Local Government is very closely involved. However, the right reverend Prelate is absolutely right to say that having all the faiths involved is crucial to what we are trying to achieve.

Photo of The Earl of Erroll The Earl of Erroll Crossbench

My Lords, I have two brief questions for the Minister, the first of which concerns the four "P" points set out in the Statement. On "Pursue", while I accept quite happily that lawful intercept activities should be available to the intelligence agencies, I am worried that "prosecute" comes under "Pursue" when it ought to be a fifth point. That might get rid of the problems we have with control orders and the detention of people without trial for long periods. We should be aiming to get cases through the law courts and not going against habeas corpus.

My second question is this. Towards the end of the Statement it says that,

"the challenge that all of us in this House face is to strike the right balance between measures to protect security and the right to life".

Does this mean a shoot-to-kill policy, or does it mean what I think it probably does, a right to a private life? If the latter is the case, would the Minister take into consideration my first comment that lawful intercept is acceptable? However, data mining and communications data probably are not because we have the right to a private life and we need to make sure that that right is maintained. Also on the right to life, security measures mean that I often have to queue for hours in various places for security checks. That effectively deprives me of some of my life because there is nothing else I can do in those hours. An overreaction to the terrorist threat can actually be counterproductive.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, the Government's aim wherever possible is to take people through the courts in the judicial process. Sadly, that is not always easy to do because a lot of what we have is based on intelligence, which is not evidence and therefore cannot be used in the courts. I turn to the right to life. The nature of the threat means that these people wish to kill as many innocent people as they possibly can, and it is interesting to note that they have killed far more Muslims than they have those of any other faith, which shows how random and extraordinary they are. However, that is what they want to do. Therefore under the right to life, people have a right to be alive and not to be killed. It is a very important right. I see things pass across my desk which show that these people have every intention of killing large numbers of the innocent. I believe that the right to life is very important and one of the rights that any Government should hold dear. Sometimes that impacts on other judgments.

Photo of Lord Denham Lord Denham Conservative

My Lords, I have been listening to the responses of the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, with great interest, but I do not think he has replied to the question put by my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones about releasing documents to the press before they are made available to Parliament. Will he answer it now if he has not done so already?

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

My Lords, has the Minister read the Prime Minister's article in the Observer last Sunday which trailed this Statement? If so, did he notice that the Prime Minister said that UK support for conflict prevention and stabilising fragile states was an integral part of our counterterrorism strategy? Does he believe that when he wrote that, the Prime Minister was aware that the British Government are in fact cutting back their support for those two matters? If so, will he now reconsider those cuts?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, I read the article by the Prime Minister, and I was at a Cabinet meeting on Monday about Afghanistan and Pakistan. In all these areas—conflict prevention, support for fragile states, how DfID money goes in—there are a number of routes through which money goes. All those things are looked at in balance. While some bits might have been cut, we are still putting a large amount of money into those areas. Whether we need any more is something we have to decide all the time on the basis of the work we do there, but we are not talking about a straight cut so that less money is available to help in two areas that are crucial to us. Pakistan is a great worry—of course, the Fatah—and we have Afghanistan. We are looking constantly to see how we can best utilise the resources we have.

Photo of Lord Goodhart Lord Goodhart Liberal Democrat

My Lords, control orders have so far caused the greatest concern of any anti-terrorist power. They do not even require the probability of involvement of the defendant in terrorism, only grounds for suspicion, and they have not been very effective because of the number of absconders. When control orders were first introduced, the Government said that they were interim provisions and would be reconsidered. Nothing has happened, however, in the intervening four years. Have the Government therefore abandoned attempts to modify the control order system to make it more acceptable?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, we had a long debate on control orders only recently and I made it clear then that the Government do not like control orders—that they are the least worst option. We use them where we are not able to put someone into prison because, as I said, intelligence is intelligence and not evidence and much of it is hearsay; however, that does not mean that it is not pointing clearly at a person who is going to try to do something horrible to us. If we cannot deport that person with assurances—either because they are a British national or because we could not safely send them to the country to which they would need to go because they might be tortured or killed—then we have to have another way of monitoring them. Within that context, we try to put in as much judicial cover as we can and senior judges consider the issues involved. It is the least worst option but we do not like it. There are 17 people under control orders at the moment, all of whom, I am assured by the Security Service and by Special Branch, need to be monitored for the security of our nation. I am willing to accept that. Work is going on to see whether there is another way to provide the same security, even if it costs a lot more money. We do not like control orders but they are necessary for the safety of our nation; that is why, at the moment, I support them.

Photo of Lord Elis-Thomas Lord Elis-Thomas Presiding Officer, National Assembly for Wales

My Lords, while accepting the rationale and the thrust of the Statement, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question about torture, which was referred to in one of the last paragraphs of the Statement. While appreciating that ongoing inquiries have still to report, can he give an undertaking that if any country requests of Britain information relating to a British subject or a British protected person, such information will be handed over only on the solemn undertaking that torture will not be resorted to in relation to that individual?

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) (Security and Counter-terrorism)

My Lords, our position on torture is clear: we absolutely condemn it. We do not torture people and we do not ask others to do it on our behalf. The Prime Minister has said that we will publish our guidance to intelligence officers and service personnel concerning the standards to apply during detention interviewing of detainees overseas. We will ensure that standards of practice are maintained by inviting the former Lord Justice, Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, to monitor compliance with that guidance and to report to the Prime Minister annually.

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Obviously not so clear that you had to avoid the question asked of you. The question was not please can you parrot out the vague and non-specific 'fig-leaf' of a party line on torture, it was in regards to information sought of a British National and 'whether information sought would only be handed over after assurances against torture?'. From the...

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