G20 and the Paris Attacks — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:20 pm on 17th November 2015.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 3:20 pm, 17th November 2015

My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the terrorist attack in Paris and the G20 in Turkey this weekend. On Paris, the Home Secretary gave the House the chilling statistics yesterday, and now we know that among the victims was a 36-year-old Briton, Nick Alexander, who was killed at the Bataclan. I know the thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with the families and friends of all those affected. On Saturday I spoke to President Hollande to express the condolences of the British people and our commitment to help in whatever way we can.

After our horror and our anger must come our resolve and our determination to rid our world of this evil. So let me set out the steps we are taking to deal with this terrorist threat. The more we learn about what happened in Paris, the more it justifies the full-spectrum approach we have discussed before in this House.

When we are dealing with radicalised European Muslims, linked to ISIL in Syria and inspired by a poisonous narrative of extremism, we need an approach that covers the full range: military power, counter-terrorism, expertise and defeating the poisonous narrative that is the root cause of this evil. Let me take each in turn.

First, we should be clear that this murderous violence requires a strong security response. That means continuing our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And, where necessary, it means working with our allies to strike against those who pose a direct threat to the safety of British people around the world.

Together, coalition forces have now damaged over 13,500 targets. We have helped local forces to regain 30% of ISIL territory in Iraq. We have helped to retake Kobane and push ISIL back towards Raqqa and, on Friday, Kurdish forces retook Sinjar.

The UK is playing its part—training local forces, striking targets in Iraq and providing vital intelligence support. Last Thursday, the United States carried out an air strike in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohammed Emwazi, the ISIL executioner known as Jihadi John. This was a result of months of painstaking work in which America and Britain worked hand in glove to stop this vicious murderer.

It is important that the whole House understands the reality of the situation we are in. There is no government in Syria we can work with, particularly not in that part of Syria. There are no rigorous police investigations or independent courts upholding justice in Raqqa. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots against our people. In this situation, we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing that things were different. We have to act to keep our people safe. And that is what this Government will always do.

Secondly, on counterterrorism here in the UK, over the past year alone our outstanding police and security services have already foiled no fewer than seven terrorist plots right here in Britain. The people in our security services work incredibly hard. They are a credit to our nation. We should pay tribute to them again in our House today, and now we must do more to help them in their vital work.

So in next week’s strategic defence and security review, we will make a major additional investment in our world-class intelligence agencies. This will include over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff and more money to increase our network of counterterrorism experts in the Middle East, north Africa, south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

At the G20 summit in Turkey this weekend, we agreed additional steps better to protect ourselves from the threat of foreign fighters by sharing intelligence and stopping them travelling. We also agreed for the first time ever to work together to strengthen global aviation security. We need robust and consistent standards of aviation security in every airport in the world, and the UK will at least double its spending in this area.

Thirdly, to defeat this terrorist threat in the long run we must also understand and address its root causes. That means confronting the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism itself and, as I have argued before, going after both violent and non-violent extremists. Those that sow the poison but stop short of promoting violence are part of the problem. We will improve integration, not least by inspecting and shutting down any educational institutions that are teaching intolerance, and we will actively encourage reforming and moderate Muslim voices to speak up and challenge the extremists, as so many already do.

It cannot be said enough that the extremist ideology is not true Islam, but it does not work to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists, not least because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims. There is no point in denying that. We need to take apart their arguments and demonstrate how wrong they are. In doing so, we need the continued help of Muslim communities and Muslim scholars. They are playing a powerful role, and I commend them for their essential work. We cannot stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values with practical help, funding, campaigns, protection and political representation. This is a fundamental part of how we can defeat terrorism both at home and abroad.

Turning to the G20 summit, there were also important discussions on Syria and on dealing with other long-term threats to our security, such as climate change. Let me briefly address them. On Syria, we discussed how we can do more to help all those in desperate humanitarian need and how to find a political solution to the conflict. Britain, as has often been said, is already providing £1.1 billion in vital life-saving assistance, which makes us the second-largest bilateral donor in the world. Last week, we committed a further £275 million to be spent in Turkey, a country hosting more than 2 million refugees. In February the United Kingdom will seek to raise further significant new funding by co-hosting a donors conference in London together with Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations.

None of this is a substitute for the most urgent need of all: to find a political solution that brings peace to Syria and enables the millions of refugees to return home. Yesterday, I held talks with President Putin. We reviewed the progress made by our Foreign Ministers in Vienna to deliver a transition in Syria. We still have disagreements, there are still big gaps between us, but there is progress. I also met President Obama and European leaders at the G20 and we agreed some important concrete steps forward, including basing some British aircraft alongside other NATO allies at the airbase in Incirlik, if that is the decision of the North Atlantic Council that will meet shortly. They would be in an air defence role to support Turkey at this difficult time.

We also agreed about the importance of stepping up our joint effort to deal with ISIL in Iraq, Syria and wherever it manifests itself. This raises important questions for our country. We must ask ourselves whether we are really doing all we can be doing, all we should be doing, to deal with the threat of ISIL and the threat it poses to us directly not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory it controls.

We are taking part in air strikes over Iraq, where we have struck more than 350 targets and where significant action has been taken in recent hours, but ISIL is not present just in Iraq. It is operates across the border in Syria, a border that is meaningless to it because, as far as ISIL is concerned, it is all one space. It is in Syria —in Raqqa—that ISIL has its headquarters and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. Raqqa, if you like, is the head of the snake.

Over Syria we are supporting our allies—the US, France, Jordan and the Gulf countries–with intelligence, surveillance and refuelling. But I believe, as I have said many times before, we should be doing more. We face a direct and growing threat to our country and we need to deal with it, not just in Iraq, but in Syria too. I have always said there is a strong case for us doing so; our allies are asking us to do this and the case for doing so has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks. We cannot and should not expect others to carry the burdens and the risks of protecting our country.

I recognise that there are concerns in this House. What difference would action by the UK really make? Could it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? Above all, how would a decision by Britain to join in strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and a diplomatic strategy to bring the war in Syria to an end? I understand these concerns and I know they must be answered. I believe they can be answered. Many of them were expressed in the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

My firm conviction is that we need to act against ISIL in Syria. There is a compelling case for doing so. It is for the Government, I accept, to make that case to this House and to the country. I can therefore announce that as a first important step to do so, I will respond personally to the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East. This strategy—in my view—should include taking the action in Syria I have spoken about. I hope that setting out the arguments in this way I can help build support right across the House for the action I believe it is necessary to take. That is what I am going to be putting in place over the coming days and I hope colleagues from across the House will engage with that and make clear their views so we can have a strong vote in the House of Commons and do the right thing for our country.

Finally, the G20 also addressed other longer-term threats to global security. In just two weeks’ time, we will gather in Paris to agree a global climate change deal. This time, unlike Kyoto, it will include the USA and China. Here at this summit, I urged leaders to keep up the ambition of limiting global warming by 2050 to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Every country needs to put forward its programme for reducing carbon emissions and as G20 countries we must also do more to provide the financing that is needed to help poorer countries around the world switch to greener forms of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change.

We also agreed that we should do more to wipe out the corruption that chokes off development, and deal with antimicrobial resistance. Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems the world faces today, from migrants fleeing corrupt African states to corrupt Governments undermining our efforts on global poverty by preventing people getting the revenues and the services that are rightfully theirs. While if antibiotics stop working properly—the antimicrobial resistance issue—millions will die unnecessarily. These are both vital issues on which the United Kingdom is taking a real lead.

Let me conclude by returning to the terrorist threat. Here in the UK the threat level is already severe, which means an attack is highly likely and will remain so. That is why we continue to encourage the public to remain vigilant and we will do all we can to support our police and intelligence agencies as they work around the clock. The terrorist aim is clear. It is to divide us and to destroy our way of life. Now more than ever we must come together and stand united, carrying on with the way of life that we know and love. Tonight England play France at Wembley. The match goes ahead. Our people stand together as they have done so many times throughout history when faced with evil. Once again, together we will prevail. I commend this Statement to the House”.