G20 and the Paris Attacks — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:34 pm on 17th November 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal 3:34 pm, 17th November 2015

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for their comments and support for the remarks of the Prime Minister in his Statement. I certainly share in the warm thanks of the noble Baroness for everything that the emergency services do in and around our country, alongside the security services, in keeping us safe. I understand very much the risks that they face.

Various points and questions were put to me, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised a number about policing, which were echoed by the noble and learned Lord. I will make a few points in response. First, it is absolutely this Government’s commitment that the police forces should have the resources necessary to do their work. In the previous Government and this Government, we have not just protected the funding for counterterrorism policing but are actually increasing it, as has been announced in the last few weeks. More general police funding will be part of the spending review but it is worth noting that, over the last few years, the police have worked very hard to achieve efficiencies in police forces in order for them to apply their resources to front-line policing. Community policing numbers have actually risen in recent years.

Secondly, the noble Baroness raised points about additional resources for counter-extremism and protecting our borders. It has been evident from what we have said in the last few days—not in response to the events in Paris but as part of a clear plan for ensuring that the right funding is available for these essential services—that we are putting money where it needs to be and that by having a growing economy, we are ensuring that we use our resources effectively, in the way that is needed to deliver the security that we all expect.

The noble Baroness raised a point about briefings for privy counsellors, and I will take that issue away. I certainly do not want to exclude her from any appropriate briefing that is available for privy counsellors. I will get back to her outside the Chamber.

The noble Baroness also asked about corruption’s being on the agenda at the G20 summit. This is a matter on which the UK has very much taken the lead. One of the steps we have taken, which other countries are now following, is to ensure greater publication and transparency of ownership of companies. We will be implementing a public register of company ownership in the UK from next year, and hosting an anti-corruption summit next year. We believe, as I said in the Statement, that this is a big contributing factor to overall safety in global matters. I am pleased that we are very much in the forefront of action in that regard.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, rightly referred to the terrible attack by ISIL in Beirut a few days before that which took place in Paris. I very much share his view and the point he made that ISIL is quite indiscriminate: it is not attacking just western countries but a range of different countries. We must never ignore the fact that this is a group of extremists, of violent people—the Prime Minister has called them a “death cult”—who attack Muslims as well as people of other religious faiths. The noble and learned Lord asked about protecting human rights and liberties. Of course, these terrorists—this evil group—are trying to remove from us our liberties and our belief in liberty and the way of life we hold so dear. We are taking steps to combat them in order to protect the liberties and human rights which are an important part of our society.

The noble and learned Lord asked various questions about the response the Prime Minister will make to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the other place. He also asked what discussion there has been and will be between the United Kingdom and allies who, like us, are seeking to defeat ISIL and bring stability to the Middle East. The Prime Minister held several bilateral talks while he was in Turkey yesterday, and the Foreign Secretary was very much involved in and at the forefront of talks in Vienna at the weekend. We continue to talk and remain in contact with all interested parties in this way.

We are just recognising as a House one of the reasons why some of our allies are keen for us to go further than we have. Although we are not contributing militarily in Syria in the way that other countries are, we are doing an awful lot already in contributing to the effort against ISIL. Noble Lords have heard me talk about the contribution we have made in air strikes in Iraq. Some of our ground forces are training Iraqi ground forces on combating IEDs—we are doing a lot to support the coalition.

Some of those countries are keen for us to get involved further, particularly with the air strikes, because we have some of the best equipment for targeting these terrorists in a way which protects civilians. Other countries, including the United States, do not have this. By contributing to the military effort in Syria, we could make a big contribution not just by attacking ISIL, but by doing so in a way that affords greater protection to civilians.

The noble and learned Lord mentioned climate change and the Paris summit in a couple of weeks’ time. Clearly, this remains an important priority for us, and we are committed, as we have been throughout, to making our contribution to tackling climate change and ensuring that all other countries make their effort as well.