My Lords, even just a few years ago it would have seemed slightly surprising that a dotcom entrepreneur was speaking in a debate about national security. Now it would seem surprising if I were not. In fact, I am looking forward to contributing as a new member of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. I also declare my interest as a director of Twitter and co-founder of Doteveryone, a charity fighting for a fairer internet.
The world has changed irrevocably and irrefutably with the immensely rapid rise of the internet and digital technologies. When Brent Hoberman and I started Lastminute.com 20 years ago, we were grappling with the early technologies to make credit card payments safe on the web, and the largest cloud we faced was the drama that the potential of the millennium bug was presenting. Now we face a set of complex and interrelated challenges unprecedented in human history, and all exaggerated by the global and borderless nature of the technology that is woven so deeply into our everyday lives.
There are many themes relating to security and it would take far more time than I have today to describe even just what has happened in recent history. Look at what we have faced in the last few months: NHS data breaches; WannaCry ransom attacks; ATMs hijacked; fake news; Jihadi content on YouTube. Now let us think for a moment of a potential future: more use of big data; autonomous vehicles hitting our roads; the internet of things being implemented all over the place; and more and more machine learning, underpinning all our systems.
I want to tick off three areas: first, the role of the large tech platforms; secondly, the levels of digital understanding in Parliament; and thirdly, the wider digital security of our citizens. First, on the large technology businesses—the so-called platform businesses —I am the last person to rush to the defence of the monopolies that dominate our consumer internet. Indeed, it is one of the greatest surprises of my life that more of the original promise of the web, to redistribute and enable many more voices to be heard, has not been fulfilled. Five large companies dominate our online world and they have unimaginable power: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.
However, I find the lack of sophisticated debate about the internet and security in the media—and, in parallel, the knee-jerk reaction by parliamentarians—extremely serious. Too often, all the internet is lumped together and blamed for an attack in the real world. It has recently been felt that, as long as we turned the internet off, we would all be safe. This weekend, I was lucky enough to hear John Kerry give a masterful Ditchley lecture in which he highlighted this point, calling for elected representatives to be honest with us all about the real causes of extremism—and he specifically talked about social media. He reminded the audience that the young people demonstrating in Tahrir Square during the Arab spring organised themselves using Twitter, and they were not terrorists. They needed the anonymity of social media to stay safe. As Professor Peter Neumann and Dr Shiraz Maher have written earlier this year, big social media platforms have cracked down on jihadist accounts, with the result that most jihadists are now using end-to-end encrypted messenger platforms, such as Telegram. This has not solved the problem, it has just made it different. Moreover, few people are radicalised exclusively online; blaming social media platforms is politically convenient and intellectually lazy.
As we have heard, some of the big tech businesses have now come together to form the global internet forum to continue to fight extremism. They will work on four strands. First, there will be sharing and developing new software to detect terror-related content. I must spend a moment explaining that this is harder than many realise. To use Twitter, an example that I know well, if we run an algorithm that we believe has 90% accuracy in finding inappropriate content, we might wrongly remove 50 million tweets—at 90% accuracy. Secondly, they will research bringing academics, industry and government together to share intelligence on the nature and scale of problems. There will be knowledge-sharing with smaller companies, as many tech companies find themselves suddenly with huge user bases and without the infrastructure to deal with those new legal and policy issues. This group will share best practice and help them to set up internal systems. Lastly, it will focus on counter-speech, boosting efforts by working in communities.
The noble Lord, Lord King, talked of the German Government’s recent decision to impose massive fines on these businesses. Although I believe that that might be the wrong solution and hard to implement, it is imperative that Governments hold those companies’ feet to the fire and make no apologies for them. They have been too slow to realise the gravity of the content created on their watch. Nevertheless, we cannot undermine a free and secure internet for political expediency, or allow the systems underpinning our daily lives to be weakened. It was refreshing to hear Robert Hannigan, the ex-head of GCHQ, speak so eloquently just this morning on Radio 4 about why the idea of a so-called “back door” into encryption is flawed and shows the gap between the reality of this dangerous activity online and perception.
That brings me to my second point. How will we ensure that we make the right decisions if our parliamentarians do not have the experience from which to understand these issues? I find it hard, and I have devoted my life to the technology sector. I believe that the gap between innovations driving the pace of change in citizens’ lives and the ability of policymakers to keep up is one of the most pressing questions that we face. Do we need new global institutions? Do we need more-focused parliamentary education programmes? As a local example, Doteveryone, the charity that I started, runs an MP mentoring programme; a small cohort of MPs were matched with digital mentors to help to increase their knowledge. It was a huge success. Corporate boards now have digital security in all its forms as a top priority. Compared to a few years ago, it would be as unacceptable if a CEO claimed that she did not understand its seriousness as it would be if she said that she did not understand the balance sheet. This has to be true in the public sector, too. Every new Minister should have the tools to ask the right questions when they start a new brief or run a new department; only then will we avoid such a situation as the mammoth failure to upgrade departmental software witnessed in the NHS.
Finally, I was very struck by research that I read about at the weekend, undertaken by Haifa University. Do random cyberattacks increase feelings of anxiety and panic? It is surprising to me that that was the first such study of the wider impact of cyberattacks; it is unsurprising that the results overwhelmingly showed that when an attack happens cortisol levels are raised and people immediately feel more anxious. Perhaps most interestingly, those feelings then led to a formation of more-militant political beliefs.
I end with that, as we are only at the beginning of understanding how these cyberthreats will affect us all. Noble Lords will have heard me talk before about the urgent need to increase skills in citizens who do not understand technology, but that is not enough. We must be relentless in encouraging digital understanding at all levels, for everyone. Only then will we be able to talk honestly about the threats that we face and make the right decisions, both individually and nationally, to keep us safe. I fervently believe in the power of an open internet to help in this endeavour. We cannot allow an already fearful public to become more fearful of technology. I urge the Minister to do what she can to tone down the alarmist rhetoric that comes from many parts of government and the media so that we can engage in a well-informed debate.
My Lords, this has been a well-informed—one might even say learned—debate, and I hope that I do not bring the tone down too far. It is obviously a huge topic, so I am going to pick a few issues where I feel the Government have got it extremely badly wrong. I would have added digital issues as well if I knew more about them, but as it is I have four.
The first issue is Prevent. No one would disagree that prevention is better than cure, but at the same time you have to make sure that what you put in place actually functions. I argue that Prevent does not: it has far too many failings. It has targeted too many innocent people, including children. At this stage, it does not have the respect of the communities that it is meant to be engaging with and has become counterproductive. Part of the problem is that it is vague and prone to misapplication, particularly because its definition of extremism is so broad. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, QC, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, has described the definition as “hopeless”. Despite a declared intention to introduce a counterextremism Bill, there is not yet a statutory definition of extremism. The only working definition of it is the Prevent one:
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values”.
That is just too broad and encompasses far too many people.
The NGO Liberty has done a very good briefing on Prevent, which I can pass on to noble Lords. Its three recommendations are: repeal the statutory duty, which has absolutely failed and brought Prevent into disrepute; drop the focus on non-violent extremism; and establish an independent review of Prevent. We have had something close to this from the Prime Minister, but we really do need to move on with it. We need a community-led, collaborative approach to tackling extremism. The vast majority of people want to help to defeat terrorism, and we tend to ignore them. What the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, called a “culture of resistance” is exactly what we need. We need to engage with people and get them to trust us.
My second issue is the Government’s declared intention to establish a commission for countering extremism. We still do not know much about this commission, but we understand it will be statutory and called “the Commission for Countering Extremism”. Apparently it will,
“identify examples of extremism and expose them”.
It also includes proposals to regulate online spaces with a digital charter. We already have laws that fulfil these needs; we do not need any more. We need to use the laws we have and resource them properly. Part of the problem is that the agencies responsible just do not have the resources to do the job. The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Max Hill QC, has said that we do not need new laws to tackle the current terrorist threat. Despite this, the Government are still going to try to legislate and not even just for terrorism, but for what they call “non-violent extremism”. What does that mean? Is it ideas that are difficult, unpleasant or offensive or just ideas that the Government disagree with? The simple fact is that it is impossible to agree a definition of what constitutes an extremist. We all have very different ideas—personally, I would argue that the DUP is an extremist organisation. It is quite dangerous to set up a commission responsible for defining, identifying and exposing people whom it thinks are extreme. As I have said in your Lordships’ House before, I am concerned that we will create our own distinctively British brand of McCarthyism.
I also have concerns about press freedom. It is surely a fundamental British value that our press is free and reports on all our strange ways, whether we are politicians or members of the public. I also have concerns that people will be seen as criminals through thought crime. They will not actually commit a crime; they will just be thinking about it. However, that does not make them criminals.
I am also curious to know whether we will have our own equivalent of the European Court of Justice. I think I saw something today about our having an interim relationship with it. I would like to know more about that, if possible. Where will people take their cases when they feel that the Government have been intrusive or that they have been overpoliced? Where does the DUP sit in deciding all these things? How much of a voice does it have? I would like some answers to those points. At the moment, there are more questions than answers, so anything that we can be told would be great.
My third issue concerns policing. Given the more than decade and a half during which I was a severe critic of the Met, when I sat on its police authority and then on a policing committee, I did not think that I would defend it quite so fiercely today. It has experienced massive budget cuts, which were far too fast and far too hard, which meant that no rational decisions could be made. The Met had to cut many millions of pounds every year. Personally, I think that has created a Met police force which perhaps is no longer quite fit for purpose. Although one might argue that its budget is not changing, if the budget is static while costs are rising, the force is much worse off.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said recently that the Met already has a budget shortfall of £170 million for national counterterrorism work. That is work over and above its responsibility as a police force for the capital. That money is normally expected to come from the Government, so will the Government please pay that back to the Met? I would like to know that. Personally, I think that the Government should, of course, pay that, but somehow the magic money tree cannot be found when it is a question of Londoners’ safety. I find that quite offensive. If we are to forge better relations with communities so that we can have vital intelligence on all kinds of crime, including terrorism, many more community police officers are needed. That means understanding how we can prevent attacks on our freedoms. It is what the noble Lord, Lord Bach, called neighbourhood policing. There just is not enough of it anymore, which means that communities do not have an easy way to express their fears and concerns if they think they are a little too mild to report officially.
My last issue concerns Saudi Arabia. As a politician, I understand that we sometimes have to work with some very unpleasant people and we have to sit down with them and negotiate with them. We might loathe them, but we have to keep a dialogue going. However, we do not have to sell them arms. Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship. It is one of the world’s worst Governments in terms of human rights abuses. We should not be selling it arms. Today the High Court ruled that the case brought by Campaign Against Arms Trade was not valid and that it was perfectly legal for the Government to sell Saudi Arabia arms. I would argue that, if it is legal, the law needs to be changed. We also all know that “legal” does not mean ethical— tax avoidance springs to mind, for example, in this context.
The Labour leader has said:
“If Theresa May is serious about cutting off financial and ideological support for terrorism, she should publish the suppressed report on foreign funding of UK-based extremism and have difficult conversations with Saudi Arabia, not hug Saudi and allied Gulf states even closer”.
It is very embarrassing that we are selling arms to a country that is responsible for human rights abuses in its neighbour Yemen. It is bombing hospitals, schools and wedding parties. How do we square with our conscience the fact that our arms are being used in that way? I would like to know a little more about publishing that report. We heard a little about that earlier, but I would like to know more about publishing it. Is it true that the Saudi royal family is involved in some way in the foreign funding of extremist terrorist groups here, because that is what people appear to be saying? It would be good to know that. If it does involve Saudi financing of groups here in the UK, that is absolutely unforgivable, and the Government need to do something about it.
Does the Minister truly believe that we need more laws to fight terrorism, or does she accept that we have enough laws and we just have to apply them properly? We already have a lot of intrusion into our private lives, and we have a significant amount of repression of people who think a bit differently. I find that unacceptable. Theresa May herself said something about celebrating the diversity of Britain, but everything the Government are doing seems to be closing down that option.
Finally, to echo the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, how far are we prepared to go in reducing our own freedoms as a response to people who are trying to take them away? It seems to be the exact opposite of what we should be doing—we should be celebrating our freedom and allowing more of it rather than closing it down.
My Lords, I will focus on one aspect of what is a very timely, important and thoughtful debate. We are, rightly, discussing the security situation in the United Kingdom; my key point is that we cannot assure that security by action in the UK alone.
Almost all the recent terrorist attacks in this country and in other parts of Europe have involved people who either travelled abroad to be radicalised or who have been inspired by foreign-based terrorist groups. Take, for example, the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi. He seems to have been radicalised during a series of trips to Libya, and—according to the French Interior Minister—also travelled to Syria. One of the London Bridge attackers, Rachid Redouane, had also spent time in Libya before he travelled to Ireland and then to the UK. Another of that group, Youssef Zaghba, had made several efforts while he lived in Italy to get to Syria; he had been stopped, and that information had been put on the EU database. This fits with the pattern we have seen in other attacks in Europe. Most of the terrorists involved have travelled between EU countries and have crossed the EU external border to go to countries like Syria, Iraq or Libya.
When I was ambassador to France, I lived through the awful, large-scale attacks in Paris on the Stade de France, the Bataclan and other places. Most of those attackers had been radicalised in Syria. The attacks were planned in Raqqa, mounted in Molenbeek, in the suburbs of Brussels—which is, I think, where the guns came from—and were carried out in the streets of Paris with almost no warning. This, therefore, is the reality we face—it is trans-border terrorism.
Clearly, getting at the heart of the terrorist threat by tackling the ISIS group is essential. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord King, that the fall of Mosul must be a good thing as regards closing down the capacity of ISIS to operate, and if Raqqa falls shortly, as looks likely, that will be good as well. However, security experts have warned us that in the short term this will lead to brutalised and radicalised European citizens who are currently in the region coming back home. The EU terrorism expert said recently that he thought there were probably 2,000 European citizens still in the region, and Sir Julian King, our EU Counterterrorism Commissioner, said in London recently—the noble Baroness also used this figure in her opening speech—that roughly 850 British citizens have travelled to that region, of which he thought that a quarter or so remain there. Whatever the numbers, we face the prospect, as the bastions of ISIS fall, of quite a large number of people flowing back to this country and to other countries in Europe, and then to countries in north Africa.
I welcome the fact, which has been confirmed this afternoon, that the Prime Minister raised this issue of co-ordination with other partners at the G20 summit, but the fact remains that this risks being another major burden on the security authorities, which are already hard pressed. This is surely a moment for maximum co-operation among our EU partners. I welcome what the Minister said in her opening statement about the priority that we give to EU co-operation on terrorism, but I looked in vain for that to be among what the Government now seem to have agreed as the priority issues for negotiation in Brussels. As noble Lords know, those three issues are: first, EU citizens, which is a very good point to raise; secondly, the Irish border; and, thirdly, the money in the financial settlement. I am sure that, as my noble friend Lady Manningham-Buller said, the closest exchange of information and intelligence will go on between our security and intelligence agencies, but it seems to me crucial that we maintain the UK’s institutional participation in the EU’s existing mechanisms—for example, the Schengen Information System, the databases of fingerprints and DNA, and the European arrest warrant. When I was ambassador, I saw that in action, with potential terrorists and criminals wanted for prosecution here being brought back to this country.
Our security agencies and our police force are doing an extraordinary job. I had the privilege of working very closely with our intelligence community when I was the National Security Adviser. However, they cannot keep the country safe without the most effective possible international networks. Frankly, I am surprised to find that the Brexit negotiations do not seem to be giving priority to the continuation of co-operation on terrorism and security with our EU partners. At a time when the threat from returning fighters looks like growing, that surely risks leaving a serious gap in our defences.
My Lords, I start by making a small procedural point. It is awfully important that Ministers try to answer debates in your Lordships’ House, and that is why I am very glad that my noble friend Lady Williams will be answering this one. We want to hear her views; we do not just want to hear the standard opinion of Home Office officials, who all too often regard any outside view as a rather impertinent interference and reflection on the competence with which they deal with their mandate. One of the best Ministers whom I have known in the 25 years that I have been in this House was the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. He took charge of and sorted out, rather than defended, the Defra administrative shambles over the payment of Brussels money to British farmers. However, speaking as a farmer, I suggest that national security is perhaps rather more important than that.
I suggest that the greatest threat to our security in the UK comes from political Islam and, in particular, from its military wing, Islamic State or ISIS. It has dwarfed most of the earlier jihadist organisations such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and so on, and has sought to embrace them. Since IS announced its arrival three years ago with the aim of creating a worldwide caliphate, we have seen enough of its brutal methods to be able to classify it as a fundamentally fascist movement clad in the cloak of Islam. Until religious Islam strips away that cloak, exposing and denouncing ISIS, or Daesh, as the contemptible terrorist outfit that most Arabs in the Middle East as well as the Iranians, Turks and many others regard it, we in the UK will be limited as to what we can do to protect ourselves from its influence and activities.
IS also has a political cover. In this, it is remarkably similar to Soviet Bolshevism. It is not communism that is being sought but Islamist theocracy administering sharia law, which is every bit as threatening as the now discarded belief of communism once was.
Along with the threat from political Islam is the huge challenge that, very largely, it has spawned: the mass migration of people. I remind your Lordships of the figures from the UNHCR. Worldwide, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2016. Of these, 22.5 million were seeking safety across national borders as refugees, which is the highest number since the UNHCR was founded in 1950 to deal with the tragic legacy of World War II. The biggest number of refugees is 5.5 million from Syria, followed by 3.3 million from South Sudan. At the end of last year, 2.8 million people were still seeking asylum. By far the largest number—over 80% of refugees—were in developing or middle-income countries, with some of the poorest countries hosting huge numbers: Turkey, 2.9 million; Pakistan, 1.3 million; and little Lebanon, 1.1 million, which is almost 20% of its population. Yet Saudi Arabia, which is about 200 times larger in scale and with three times the national income per head than Lebanon, has virtually none.
This migration is not a European challenge; it is a global challenge. That explains why the EU has been so ineffective at meeting it. Although being in the Schengen area has its advantages, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, referred to, as the UK is outside this area we are, to some extent, shielded from the insensitive fumbling of the EU Commission, with its national quotas for refugees which have been largely ignored by the Schengen states.
Meanwhile, we should have the greatest sympathy for countries that have had their capacity to receive people overwhelmed by the numbers. I am thinking in particular of Italy and Greece, two of the most generous-hearted countries in Europe. Already, Italy has received more than 200,000 refugees—some 90% of them are still in emergency accommodation. By June this year, more than 60,000 had crossed the sea from Tripoli to Italy, which is a 25% increase on the same period last year. Tragically, more than 1,600 refugees have lost their lives in the crossing this year. Stranded on the tiny Greek islands are 14,000 refugees, sometimes in very poor conditions. Not surprisingly, there is growing resentment at the well-meaning but misguided rescue operations of various NGOs, which have in practice offered a ferry service and filled the pockets of the people traffickers who dispatch their victims in fragile coracles to Italy and Greece. The answer of course is that all these unfortunate victims must be rescued when in peril on the sea, but they should be returned to where they originally took passage. Some noble Lords may be aware that I have four times proposed in this House—on
I now move on to some of my specific suggestions for mitigating the threat to our security today. My first point is that HMG should always make an independent proportionality assessment of the greater national good when there is a clash between the interests of national security with civil or human rights. We cannot afford the cost or risk of some of the cases in recent years where courts have had to take a precise and limited view on rights with little regard to security. We simply cannot allow another Abu Hamza, who was briefly detained in Britain in 2004 and then it took 10 years until he was sent to the United States in 2014 and sent to prison for life in January 2015.
To follow up what the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, said, I believe that British jihadists who have travelled to take part in IS operations anywhere in the world should not be allowed back into this country whether they are British citizens or not—by naturalisation or birth. Their passports should be cancelled and their citizenship revoked. They have made their choice and if they have not died from it, they should live with it. We cannot afford to take the risk and pay the price of doing otherwise.
We also need greatly to tighten our borders. That must mean that the Passport Office should know much more about what passports other than British passports people hold. I remember pointing that out to Cressida Dick about three years ago when she was still involved in anti-terrorism in the Met. She expressed astonishment that the Passport Office did not have a record of other passports that British passport holders held. The Passport Office should also temporarily invalidate British passports held by anybody who is in prison or on bail. One of the London Bridge attackers was apparently on bail. That would mean automatic notification of instances such as that by the courts to the passport authorities. There must also be automatic electronic cancellation of passports when death is notified to the registrar. At the moment, the trouble is that a lot of passports belonging to dead people drift around and are used by living people.
It is most important that there is an automatic recording of people when they leave the country, which should be kept for at least five years, as well as of people arriving. It is absurd at present that the Home Office says, “We record departure only when it is intelligence-led”. That has not worked and it is not enough. We do not necessarily need national identity cards—I have never been keen on the cards—but we need a national identity number. We have a multiplicity of numbers, but we should all have one number that identifies a person with biometrics. Those should not be on the card, because that is quite dangerous—clever terrorists can fake cards and put biometrics on to them to say, “I am who I say I am”, but there should be a central register of the biometrics. The key thing is the number. We really must reconsider that. We also need new standards of positive vetting, as we used to have in the Cold War days, to make sure that terrorists—it has been said that there are many in the UK—cannot get into sensitive positions.
Finally, the Government really have to review the status and the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain. Its links with jihad are not unlike those that Sinn Fein once had with the IRA in Ireland; it is a rather similar outfit. The MB was declared a threat to national security three years ago by Sir John Jenkins, then the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, when he was asked to report on the organisation by David Cameron when he was Prime Minister. As noble Lords probably know, it is partly the problem of the Muslim Brotherhood which is causing the Qatar-Saudi conflict because the Saudis are Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood is an alternative source of information and competition. Sadly, they are both guilty of having funded a great deal of terrorism.
Further on the Muslim Brotherhood, let us not forget that the organisation started in Egypt in 1928. Its members killed an Egyptian Prime Minister in 1949 and then killed President Sadat in 1981 because he was a peacemaker. President al-Sisi of Egypt is fighting very hard to prevent the formation of another Muslim Brotherhood Government because, frankly, the ultimate thing about all this sort of terrorism is to separate religion from the state. We cannot have the politicisation of religion in order to secure monopoly power in any country.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord because we entered this House together some 26 years ago. I shall touch in my speech on some of the things he has said. I should start by saying that I have absolutely no practical knowledge of anything that anyone can think of, but I am a social scientist. In the wake of 7/7 I wrote a book about terrorism called Rethinking Islamism and I shall draw upon it in my contribution.
The central question that we have to ask, because it is one that goes on reverberating, is this. What is it that makes people who are born and bred in Britain become jihadists? The definition of extremism is where someone does not agree with fundamental British values. We have to remember two things. The first is that the way we see our history is not the way the world sees our history. The world has a different perspective on British history from us. I have had the good fortune to come from a former colony and to have settled here for many years, so I know both sides of the reading of history.
How many of us know that two years from now will be the centenary of Jallianwala Bagh? I would bet that very few people here know what Jallianwala Bagh is, but it means a lot in India. Unarmed people were fired on with machine guns by soldiers led by a British Army officer. That does not matter to us, but you could easily turn—I am deliberately using a non-Muslim example here—a Hindu boy, born and bred in this country, into a sort of terrorist by telling him, “The time has come to wreak revenge for this enmity of 100 years ago”. That is exactly what is going on in Islamism.
In his speech the noble Lord, Lord King, contrasted the Irish question with current terrorism. He said that in the Irish question we knew the nationalists and the unionists, and that religion was never the issue: it was about politics and history. The Reverend Doctor Ian Paisley was a scholar who wrote many books about theology. We did not worry about any of his books; we worried about the fact that he was a politician. Difficult though it is, we need to forget that it is a religious problem.
The problem is that the way Muslims see the history of the last 100 years is very different from the way we read it. The other day in our Chamber we debated the Balfour Declaration. Be prepared for a huge terrorist attack on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, because it is not thought to be as good a thing by most of the Muslim population as it is by most of us. We have to face these things.
One hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire was breaking up and we had the Sykes-Picot agreement, which divided up the Ottoman Empire even before it was defeated. Places such as Syria and Iraq and various countries were created. Later on they were assigned after the war to either Britain or France. We have forgotten that history, but they remember it. They have not been reconciled with what happened to the Ottoman Empire at the hands of the British and the French. I have read a lot about this.
As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, pointed out, Islamism and terrorism are not new. A lot of Islamism was a war within Islamic countries, one faction against another, but then it became globalised and turned against us. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, America subsidised the Taliban, which later became al-Qaeda. They defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan by making them religious fanatics and telling them, “This is your jihad. Throw out the Soviets from Afghanistan”. That al-Qaeda may now have become ISIS.
ISIS may have disappeared, but it will become something else because the central complaint and grievance of the Muslim population of the Middle East has not been solved—I do not think it can be. The fact that one of the longest-lasting empires disappeared—an empire that lasted 700 years and which took its origin directly from the Prophet—means that the caliphate disappeared. That is why when ISIS was set up the dream was to have a caliphate again. Of course, now the caliphate is gone. It is very hard for us to understand why this caliphate is so important, but it would be like having the Catholic Church without the Pope. In that situation, there would be Catholics who would want to have a Pope back. That is why there is a big desire in the Muslim world to have a caliphate back.
This is a complex story through which many boys and girls are being converted. Yes, they are old stories; maybe they are wrongly read and maybe they are a wrong reading of history, but read what Osama bin Laden wrote. If you do not want to read his original, read my account of what he wrote in my book. Systematically, the idea is that this is a war that has been going on since the Crusades. The last phase was in the early 20th century, when the Ottoman Empire was broken up, and this is where we are now.
The borders of Syria and Iraq are all completely imagined. These lines were drawn on a map in the Foreign Office and later implemented. These injustices of history we of course cannot now correct, but I urge that whoever is working on Prevent should know something about this history. We need to know our history as other people see us, because if we do not see it that way we will never understand why they go against us. They do so because they no longer believe our pretensions that we were just, liberal and kind, and that we helped them come out of savagery or whatever it is. It is not even about Wahhabism, because that is a war of Muslims against other Muslims. It is the idea that there was this ugly battle at the end of which the Muslims lost decisively when the Ottoman Empire disappeared, and they want to resume the battle.
We have to treat this terrorism as a more or less long-run fact; it will not go away. We have not even begun to understand where these things come from. They are certainly are not going to go away. We should be able to educate ourselves a bit better and understand what drives the other side. If we understand that, we will be able to be more self-critical and not just assume that such attacks are unjustified. That is not the way that other people read this history.
In the past few months, at least since Donald Trump was elected, people have been worried about the future of the liberal order and about its collapse and so on, but those who have praised the liberal order have been very uncritical as to why it is so good. It does not seem so good to the rest of the world. It may seem very good to the north Atlantic region, but the rest of the world does not think that it is great. We have to be more self-critical; at least, we have be more self-educated, so as to understand what drives our children, born and bred here, to accept this other version of history.
That is all I can say; I do not really think that much more than that will be useful. A knowledge of the history of the past 100 years, especially that of Islamism—
In analysing the history of the events we are facing at the moment, the noble Lord seems to pay no attention to the involvement of the Sunni-Shia conflict. Following the invasion of Iraq and the deposition of Saddam Hussein, the Shia took their opportunity to settle a lot of old scores. There seems to be considerable evidence that the origins of ISIS were the remains of Saddam’s Sunni army. That showed when they managed to acquire a lot of the Iraqi army’s American-gifted equipment, and had the skill to operate it extremely efficiently. ISIS started not in an attack against the United Kingdom or the United States, but in a determination to take over Iraq and as much of Syria as they could and to establish a Sunni supremacy. Is that not an analysis of the history which is well worth remembering?
I thank the noble Lord for that. I had not even come to the 21st century, but I quite agree. It is true is that there are battles within Islam, between Sunni and Shia, that have been going on for quite a while, and that is part of the Qatar-Saudi Arabia battle right now. The noble Lord is also quite right about the way ISIS was set up. However, the story starts much before ISIS. It starts with the Muslim Brotherhood and afterwards with what happened to clean out the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, as the noble Lord no doubt knows, where jihadists were created and financed by us to remove the Soviets—they were given lots of drugs, arms and so on. Through that came Osama bin Laden. These attacks have been going on since the early 1990s—let us remember the first frustrated attack on the World Trade Center, then on the USS “Cole” and then on the American embassy in Kenya. They were even before we got to 9/11. I agree with the Sunni-Shia commentary, but we need to make ourselves aware of this complex history. At least, those fighting radicalisation should be aware of the broad perspective that the young, radicalised man or woman has when they want to go off and throw a bomb at us.
My Lords, this debate invites us to take note of the current security situation in the UK. I wish to focus my remarks this evening primarily on that situation in London. However, we all know that terror can come in different forms, in different times and in different places. Innocuous white vans are driven as weapons of murder into crowds on pavements, young people out for the evening, tourists staring at Big Ben. The weapons can be knives. They have been described in this debate as low-tech: cutlery bought to slash and stab innocent and defenceless people. The weapons can be suicide bombs, carried inconspicuously and devised, as in Manchester, to tear people apart with homemade shrapnel. Terrorism is what we face anywhere, everywhere and at any time. Doubtless, those so motivated that they have no doubt are working now on the mechanics needed for atrocities to come.
Of course, we recognise and respect the expertise and the courage of those who seek to protect us. Much tribute has been paid in this debate to the police, the security services and those charged with surveillance, struggling to pin down suspects about to cross the line from murder imagined to murder realised. As the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made clear in this debate, they face an awesome task. Yet there are patterns of predictability and one of these is the magnetic attraction of London to those intent on attacking symbols of our standing in the world, our way of life, our freedom from fear, our tolerance. They wish to kill to change us, to replace security with insecurity, to make us unsafe where all seems familiar and normal. And there are noticeable effects, more noticeable by the day. On stations and trains, announcements urge us to contact the authorities if we see anything suspicious or anyone acting suspiciously. On the underground we observe fellow passengers carefully and, indeed, their luggage—I certainly do. On our crowded streets, we notice individuals, not just generic groups of schoolchildren, tourists or people queuing to board trains or go to the theatre. Such individual surveillance, one of another, can be helpful and we are urged to do it, but it is not natural. We have to recognise that while people in dictatorships are always wary of each other, in a free country that is not our way, but this is an erosion, a process that is taking place.
As I said, there are patterns of predictability and we should seek to address these, so I shall turn specifically to London. I have been, for better or worse, commuting into and out of London for more than 50 years; by car, by taxi, by train and underground; as a journalist, as somebody in politics, as a businessman. I still feel, as I am sure many of us do, that it is a privilege and an excitement to come into this most populous, diverse and brilliant capital, but in recent years a strange strangulation of London has occurred and continues to do so. The roads grow narrower. Bicycle lanes, idealistically planned, now choke the roads. The crowds thicken. New and restored buildings spill out into the streets. Crowds are a magnet for terrorism. Today London makes itself vulnerable. Our arteries, if you like, have thickened. Our infrastructure is inadequate.
Last week, as an example that I personally experienced, the heat closed Paddington and reduced Waterloo to frustrating chaos, with hundreds of people crammed into carriages where the windows were sealed and the air conditioning did not work because it was hot. The temperatures were impossible and even English composure broke down. We take in silence what might make others scream. In such an environment—predictable and recurring—individuals with murder in mind could too easily grasp an opportunity or plan for it.
In this somewhat combustible environment in London, we are now told of further cuts to neighbourhood policing teams. These cuts will—must—debilitate the capital’s safer neighbourhood teams, so well described as the Met’s eyes and ears on the ground. Will the Minister consider what can be done to reverse such a policy now as a matter of urgency?
I fear that iconic London makes itself more vulnerable as people are constantly distracted by noise and muddle and the everyday battle to get from one place to the next. The drivers of black cabs are also the eyes and ears we need. Now, despite their knowledge, they struggle with ever changing constructions, constrictions and diversions. Transport for London also has a responsibility for the security situation of Londoners. We all share responsibility. The blackened ruin of Grenfell Tower by the Westway is not only testimony to the irresponsibility of the council but witness to the false assumption that cheap solutions will do.
The challenge of terrorism in the United Kingdom and in its capital will, as we all recognise, last for many years, and it may get worse. The forbearance, kindness and patience of Londoners are precious assets not to be squandered. We can all unite around the determination not to be deterred, to continue to practise a way of life envied for its freedom, but we must not allow inadequate funding of our public services, inadequate standards of protection in the use of our roads, inadequate funding for our transport infrastructure—inadequate carefulness—to jeopardise the way of life we seek to protect.
I declare an interest: the new police video released today was made by my company. It urges Britons to be alert this summer when on holiday. But the truth is that Londoners need to be alert every day and every night for as long as we can foresee, and on their behalf we, too, must become much more alert than ever before.
My Lords, in rising to make a modest contribution to this important debate, I venture to start with the oft-repeated assertion that the first duty of any Government, regardless of their political persuasion, is to secure the safety of the realm and its citizens. Of course, an essential contribution to that vital duty is the support and funding of an efficient and functioning police force.
In the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, following no less than four terrorist incidents in recent weeks, it is right that we keep a clear mind on these matters and stand ready to increase the size of our police forces if that is thought to be necessary, or at least to ensure that they are not further reduced. As is, of course, well known, there have been some reductions in recent times brought about by budgetary constraints but I suggest that the various threats which we now face argue against further reductions for the foreseeable future. Effective policing is manpower-intensive. These further reductions from today’s levels ought to be resisted.
It is, we are told, the case that the firm cap on police salaries is encouraging early retirement and discouraging effective recruitment. I hope that will be taken into account in whatever is decided with regard to public sector salaries generally. I put it to your Lordships that in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, exemplified by the Westminster Bridge outrage during which Police Constable Palmer gave his life, special considerations should apply.
A few weeks ago there was a press report to the effect that the assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police responsible for counterterrorism, both in London and elsewhere, I understand, had written personally to the Home Secretary, presumably on the matters upon which I have touched. When she replies can my noble friend say whether that was indeed the case and, if so, whether my right honourable friend the Home Secretary or one of her Ministers intends to reply?
I end with similar thoughts to the ones I ventured to express to your Lordships in my opening remarks. It is the duty of every Government, regardless of their political persuasion, to make proper provision on the safety and security of the realm. In the light of recent events, I urge my noble friends to keep their compliance with this essential requirement under continuous and careful review. I look forward to my noble friend’s reply.
My Lords, I hope I will be forgiven if I start by saying that the concept of security can be very subjective. I think that if you talk today to thousands of people in Britain living in multi-storey blocks, their primary concern about security is about whether they are going to live securely and stably in their homes. I do not think it takes very much imagination to begin to draw lines between that reality, all that lies behind it and the issues which have preoccupied us in this debate.
I am one of those who believe absolutely fundamentally that ultimately the battle against terrorism is a battle for hearts and minds. In the context of this debate, we have had some very significant contributions from very experienced people which have strengthened my conviction. I was greatly heartened when the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made the point that we have to look at the context and see the interrelationships and cannot look at the subject on too narrow a front. To hear her say that was indeed powerful.
In the same way, I thought my noble friend Lord Harris was making much the same point when he said that, in the end, there can be no absolute security and we should not pander to false illusions that there can be. What matters is society making rational choices about how it is going to allocate its resources: how much should go into building a society worth living in and how much should go into policing that society. That argument will never go away. It is a very real argument and has effects on people.
I have observed in my own life that terrorism thrives when there is a climate of ambivalence around, and of alienation and disaffection. Substantial numbers of people are not leaping out of their beds every morning and saying “These horrible things, how can they happen, how can we get these people and obliterate them?”. Many of them are saying, “How absolutely horrible these things are, and we would not be able to participate in anything like that ourselves, but perhaps, just perhaps, these people are on our side”. We have to face up to that. There is therefore a social dimension to terrorism and how we tackle it. There needs to be very intensive concentration on the provision of social infrastructure, particularly where communities find themselves in the midst of a large and growing number of people from completely different backgrounds. There must be good schools, good hospitals and good policing.
Several noble Lords have stressed in the debate today the importance of community policing, which is music to my ears, because I just do not understand how we can seriously take a stand against terrorism if we are not giving priority to community policing. It is not just about policemen going into the community to be the eyes and ears of the state in that community; it is about policemen building relationships with that community in which they actually enlist the community and create a shared sense of responsibility for ensuring the security that is necessary.
But we also have to be very clear about counterproductivity. I sometimes think that my biggest concern about the fight against terrorism is the danger of counterproductivity. Whatever the nature of terrorism and whatever its motivation, it is determined to reveal our society as hypocritical and ill founded, and our institutions as not worth having. We have to be very careful that we do not play into that sinister and manipulative argument. That is why, however tough the challenges and however real the immediate pressure on people in the front line, we have to maintain the highest standards of human rights and to ensure that our system of justice remains as transparent as it can possibly be. Of course I am a realist and realise that some of that justice cannot be transparent in a fight against terrorism, but we have to make sure that “because it cannot always be” does not become a convenient way of beginning to say more and more that the justice system is not going to be transparent. It needs to be transparent, and people need to have confidence in the system of justice. All these things matter tremendously, and I thought the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford made a very wise and thoughtful intervention about how we will win the battles in the fight against terrorism.
There is also an international dimension. I cannot accept that what we are doing in foreign policy has no implications for stability here. I was talking about alienation and disaffection. If we parade the significant part that we played in bringing about the arms trade treaty and claim credit for it but then refuse to stand up to the Saudi Arabians for what they are doing in Yemen, that has a direct relationship with the growth of alienation and dissolution, which becomes prey to manipulation by terrorist recruiters.
We have to be consistent, transparent and convincing in our foreign policy. Even journalists are now picking up the reality that, whatever may be said about victory in Mosul, this is about distorted minds: it is not just a physical defeat in battle. The terrorists will melt away and reassemble in other situations. Until we diminish the conceptions in the mind, we will always be on the defensive.
I applaud the police, the fire services—my God, I applaud the intelligence services—and all those involved, the medical and ambulance services and the rest, but this can become a sentimental rant. If we really value these people, how are we demonstrating that? How are we giving them pride of place in our society? We have been incredibly well blessed by the loyalty and devotion of our public services in a situation that has become intolerable given the great success, triumph and esteem of those who make money over those who serve the community.
All these things have to be brought together. There is no simple approach in which we can take one segment on its own and stand it up: they all interrelate.
I am most concerned that in all this we understand that, whether we like it or not, we are born into an international, interdependent community. There is no way that we can have an intelligence stand against extremism and terrorism on a national basis. Any effective stand must be made with others; we have to work with others. I have had the privilege of listening on Select Committees to people working in the area of policing and other spheres on an international basis. Let us call a spade a spade. I am not trying to refight the referendum—I am one of those who, however desperately unhappy, accepts the result of the referendum. If you have a referendum, you must accept the result. But virtually every person whom I heard who operates in this sphere talking to us on Select Committees said that of course pulling out of Europe is potentially a weakening of our security and police arrangements, because crime, drugs and trafficking—certainly terrorism—are all international issues.
Some people would argue that we have to keep a sense of proportion about this: we are particularly good at our policing and intelligence; will we not be weakening our position if we get ourselves bogged down with too many people internationally? The wiser people—my impression was that they were wiser; that was probably because I agreed with them—were saying no, you are only as strong as the weakest link. If you are to have an effective operation, where there is weakness, where things are not up to scratch, you need to be working at improving the situation internationally, not running away from it.
There is a huge and incredibly complex challenge here. I come back to what I said earlier: it is a battle for hearts and minds, and minds will win. Minds are influenced by hope, having a stake in a society that is worth living in, and individuals having a future and a stake in something that matters to their families, and the rest. That is how we will win. We have to be resolute in building social solidarity.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and the Government for finding time for this timely and important debate. I want to focus my remarks on the intelligence community—namely, the three intelligence services and their co-ordinating structure in Whitehall. I draw attention to the fact that I was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee during the last Parliament.
I pay tribute, as others have done, to all those who work in our intelligence community, and in doing so I readily acknowledge that there are others in this House who know their work far better than I do. They work under sustained and relentless pressure, in some cases in conditions of personal danger, and the very nature of their business is that their work goes largely unrecognised. Day in, day out, they play a crucial role, along with their colleagues in the police and the other law enforcement agencies, in enabling the rest of us to go about our daily lives.
The intelligence community has, of course, been under huge pressure of late, and I was interested in what my noble friend Lady Manningham-Buller was saying about the tempo and scale of the threat we are facing. Counterterrorism obviously remains the highest priority in the aftermath of the attacks we have seen and has naturally formed the focus of this debate. But, in parallel, we have seen an upsurge in co-ordinated, possibly state-sponsored hacking and cyberattacks, presenting new challenges to our intelligence services.
Yet, at the same time, old challenges do not fade away. In such an unstable and volatile time in world politics, the traditional need for high-grade political and economic intelligence has never been greater. Have the intelligence agencies the resources to meet this pressure? Despite the severe restrictions on public spending in recent years, the expenditure on all the three intelligence services has been, as the Minister reminded us, increased significantly, not least in the November 2015 spending review. While I think there was widespread acceptance that these increases were justified, there is, in my view, a continuing case for the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee to continue to scrutinise how these significant extra resources have been used. It should examine whether this additional expenditure has been deployed effectively across all three services, bringing them closer together, particularly in ways that not only deliver further capability but, at the same time, encourage further savings when necessary by pooling resources between the three services.
Looking more closely at the three specific priority areas that I have mentioned, let me focus first on counterterrorism. In the aftermath of the series of attacks that we have endured, it is important to recall that the intelligence services have constantly reminded us, as others have today, that we cannot be guaranteed 100% security. Tragically, there will be attacks which succeed and get through the net, with such horrific and life-changing consequences for those directly involved, their friends and families. The important thing is to learn the lessons of these incidents; it is imperative that we do so and, where possible, be seen to do so.
I welcome the appointment of David Anderson, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, to oversee a review of the handling of recent terror attacks. He knows the intelligence world and brings incisiveness and clarity to difficult issues. Has he been given a date on which to report, and will a redacted version of his review be made public? A starting point for his analysis may well be in looking again at the issues raised by the Intelligence and Security Committee in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, who was a member of the committee at that time.
Some of the issues may well be very relevant as we search for lessons from the recent attacks. Obviously, there were many questions then about resources, but there were also questions about process. Can MI5 progress low-priority casework even when under huge pressure of running an increasing number of high-priority investigations? How can we deal with “self-starting terrorists”, who are increasingly security conscious in how they go about their business? As we have heard today, the question of communications service providers came up in the report; I welcome the Government’s activity in that important area. How do the agencies manage the vast amount of data on individuals not assessed as posing a risk to national security, and how do they process more effectively intelligence from local communities, which may prove vital in any investigation? All those issues were exposed in 2013, and I suggest that they may be very relevant as we look to learn lessons in 2017.
The second area for further scrutiny is in the field of cybersecurity. We have been reminded over recent months of the threat faced not only by organisations regarded as critical national infrastructure but by those further afield. The establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre has been an innovative and creative response to the need to build a bridge between the necessarily secret work of GCHQ and the more open world of assuring the security of business and public bodies. There is a widely recognised need to raise public awareness and provide high-level advice—and I salute the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in promoting that. As the Minister reminded us, the centre has not yet been open a year, but I think that, before long, there will be a case to take stock of its work and to learn lessons from how it is carrying out its vital role.
Finally, in the more traditional world of intelligence there is always an insatiable requirement for high-grade political and economic intelligence on the many trouble spots in the world. What are the Russians’ intentions in Ukraine or the Baltic? What do we know about the shifting political sands in the Middle East, the Gulf, Syria and Iran? What do we really know about intentions and capabilities in North Korea? The list is endless; the resources are finite; priorities need examining. Continuing scrutiny of the work of the intelligence services in these areas, as well as the effective use of their resources, is the proper function of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee appointed by the Government. I hope that this parliamentary body can be reconstituted soon, given recent events. In another place last month, the Home Secretary fully recognised the need for this. Does the Minister have further news on the re-establishment of the committee? The committee has a vital and crucial role both in explaining the intelligence community to the public and in holding it to account. That it does so effectively is in the interest of the public, of Parliament and of the intelligence community itself, as it can only be really effective if it continues to enjoy the widest possible public trust that effective scrutiny brings. I firmly believe that it deserves that trust, but we should never take it for granted.
My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lady Vere for initiating this debate and I look forward to the Minister’s response. Many noble Lords have modestly stated how ill equipped they are to contribute to this debate. I fear that I can win that competition hands down.
The objective of terrorism is to create fear, alarm, loathing and discord, often where little or none existed before. The terrorists that we are now concerned with hate our modern liberal democracy with its great set of shared values backed up a very well-developed system of justice and the rule of law. They will succeed only if we discard what we have developed over many years and overreact, in doing so making matters worse rather than better. We should never forget the lessons from the recent troubles in Northern Ireland where some of our policies acted as a recruiting sergeant for terrorist organisations.
It seems that every time there is a terrorist incident the media suggest that there were intelligence failings or ask why, if the perpetrator was known to the authorities, he was not put under relentless surveillance. With regard to the latter, the simple reason is that we are not a police state. We will not fall into the trap of allocating disproportionate resources to security. The authorities should be using intrusive techniques only when appropriate and only against suspects who are assessed as being a genuine threat. Sometimes that assessment might be in error and the risk is underestimated. I am furious with the leaking of techniques—particularly SIGINT capabilities that are so useful for keeping us safe. The noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, has just touched on that point.
Similarly, the authorities will not always get the intelligence in the right form, at the right time or it may simply be overlooked. It is inevitable that some attacks will get through and when they do we should support our security people. I salute them all. We should be grateful that they foil many attacks while at the same time adhering to the principles of justice and the rule of law and avoiding us slipping into becoming a police state. I therefore support the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, and other noble Lords.
We have talked much about what we can do to reduce the risk of attack by Contest and Prevent, et cetera, and I am sure that these are sound approaches. However, I worry about whether we are striking the right balance between detecting and being able to successfully prosecute perpetrators on one hand, and, on the other, recovering back to normal life as quickly as possible—in other words minimising the strategic effect of an attack. I fully accept that the police recover a vast amount of evidence and that it is analysed using all sorts of interesting and clever techniques.
Most of us find it extraordinary that anyone would commit suicide or expose themselves to a lethal armed police response, but the fact is that they do and they are not deterred by very long prison sentences if they are caught. Of course, if they are detected and convicted, perpetrators need to be locked up for a very long time for reasons of public protection. But even a suicidal terrorist will want to be confident that he will have effect—by that I mean strategic effect. I am concerned that the length of time we have a crime scene cordoned off may increase the effect—perceived or real—of the attack. For days after the attack the media show footage of cordoned-off scenes that only amplify the effect of the attack. It might seem cold-hearted, but I hope that Ministers consider very carefully how to minimise the perceived effect of an attack to make further attacks less attractive.
Another concern is that the media keep repeating the name of a terrorist perpetrator so that he is burned into the public consciousness: in other words, we have inadvertently made the terrorist a very significant person when he was not before. Is this a good idea? Can we think about encouraging the media to refer to the perpetrator only once in the back of a newspaper or report, or to once a day actually say what the perpetrator’s name is?
With the recent attacks and the Grenfell Tower disaster we saw the media showing footage of relatives and friends of missing people hunting for their loved ones. I cannot believe that the police are handling the issue of missing persons as badly as is suggested in the media. Will the Minister write in detail to me and others taking part in the debate on how the issue of missing people is being handled by the police, because I do not believe that they are doing this as badly as is portrayed?
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, was very interesting and measured. He was absolutely right about his concerns about an MTFA. That is certainly what keeps me awake at night. However, I believe that the Government are doing all they can to reasonably choke off the supply of illegal firearms. A lone wolf terrorist attempting to acquire a suitable firearm runs a high risk of being either defrauded or reported to the authorities. On the other hand, a properly trained and experienced terrorist runs the risk of being detected as part of a group. Unfortunately, there are ways other than smuggling to acquire powerful weapons, but I do not think it would be helpful to talk about them publicly. We could massively increase the effort of firearms control, as suggested by the noble Lord, but then still be subject to an MTFA, so I think that Ministers have the balance right.
Finally, all noble Lords will have been extremely disappointed by Kensington and Chelsea’s handling of the dreadful Grenfell Tower disaster. We easily run out of superlatives to describe it. Despite the awfulness of the disaster, it should have been relatively easy for the local authority to look after the adversely affected residents and set up a missing persons’ register. After all, there are only 24 storeys, with four or five families in each storey. Surely a local authority such as Kensington and Chelsea would have many more competent officials in its planning department alone than families to be looked after. Frankly, as a Conservative, I was deeply ashamed. There were only about 500 people directly and adversely involved. What would happen if it was 5,000 or, God forbid, 50,000? In the light of the abject failure of one LA to manage a highly localised and finite disaster, how can we have any confidence that there are no other equally weak local authorities? Can the Minister assure the House that the Government are taking active and urgent steps to ensure and verify that all local authorities are meeting their obligations in terms of emergency planning and capacity? I believe this is very important because it goes back to my point about minimising the impact and strategic effect of any attack.
My Lords, I will concentrate on the issue of terrorism. I guess that if we had not had the attacks in Westminster, Manchester, on London Bridge and in Finsbury Park, we would not be having this debate today. I also want to acknowledge the significant experience among noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Bach, who is a police and crime commissioner, has perhaps the most up-to-date experience. The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, is a former director-general of the security services, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is not just the former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority but the author of a recent report on London’s preparedness for a terrorist attack. I noticed some non-verbal reactions to what the noble Lord was saying. However, the fact is that among his 127 recommendations were that the authorities should consider barriers to protect pedestrians from the sort of attacks we saw in Nice and Berlin—a recommendation that was made prior to the London Bridge and Westminster attacks.
However, on a positive note, the noble Lord will be pleased to see that at the Pride in London event on Saturday, significant changes had been made to ensure the safety and security of those who participated, including—I noticed in particular—police vehicles parked across all the side-roads leading to the event to prevent a vehicle attack. So, some of the lessons from that report have clearly been learned.
The noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, with his experience in Northern Ireland, is of course a former chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee; the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, is a former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee; and the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, is another member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
With regard to my own experience, I was the police spokesman in press conferences following the
This is a debate, and on some points I have to acknowledge that what I will say is no more than an educated guess, albeit one informed by experience, research and analysis. I would welcome a challenge from the Minister in her response should she not agree with anything I am about to say.
Many noble Lords have given their assessment of the security situation. The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, most powerfully described the contrast between the situation now and the challenges she faced 10 years ago. Eighty plots have been disrupted in the last four years, and there are 3,000 subjects of interest and 500 active investigations. The key here is of course to try to differentiate between people who espouse extremism and those who are prepared to carry that through with a violent attack. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem talked about the attack on Lee Rigby and the fact that a Facebook entry was found subsequently in which the attacker said that he wanted to kill a soldier. The fact is that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of similar threats in posts made by people who had no intention of carrying out, or the ability to carry out, such an attack, but how do you differentiate between the different apparent warning signs?
The most important message that I want to deliver today is that we need a mature and considered response to what we have experienced. Although the situations may be different, we may be able to take some comfort from what has happened in the past. I have already referred to
Two weeks later, a copycat group of would-be bombers tried to repeat what happened on
In April 1999, David Copeland, a right-wing extremist, waged a 13-day terror campaign against minorities in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho. He exploded three sophisticated nail bombs, killing three and injuring 162. He made the bombs himself. He was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia but was none the less convicted of murder.
The point I am trying to make is that we may not be living in unprecedented times as far as successful terrorist attacks are concerned, but the picture painted by open-source material of the activity of people suspected of terrorism, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, set out, clearly shows that an unprecedented number of plots have been thwarted. Nor must we forget the attack on Jo Cox and on the Finsbury Park mosque—both, again, apparently from the right.
I am afraid that I cannot move on without taking issue with the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater—it has become a bit of a tradition between the two of us. If I recorded correctly what he said, he described Daesh or ISIS as a “religious sect” and he talked about “Islamic extremism”. My belief is that Islamism, as opposed to Islam, is a violent political ideology that looks to overthrow democracy and liberal values using a corruption of Islam as an excuse. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said—I see he has returned to the Chamber right on cue—it is probably more to do with politics and history than religion. It is a political ideology, not a religion or a religious sect, and I believe that “Islamic terrorism” is a contradiction in terms. I said that in a press conference following the
What should the Government’s response be? The noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, talked about reviewing the counterterrorism strategy and the length of sentences for terrorism offences. However, as the noble Lord, Lord King, pointed out, the nature of terrorism has changed, certainly since the time of Irish republican terrorism—we did not have suicide bombers in those days. One has to ask: how many suicide bombers would be deterred by longer prison sentences for terrorist offences?
I also take issue with what the noble Baroness said about bilateral agreements with European partners. I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, will correct me, but counterterrorism intelligence exchange tends to be on a bilateral basis, whether it is with the “Five Eyes” countries or individual European countries. However, when it comes to law enforcement and prosecuting people for terrorism offences, the structures tend to be EU-wide: Eurojust, the European arrest warrant and the European Court of Justice all play a central role in bringing people to justice. Those are two separate issues. In exiting the EU we will have a real problem in the prosecution of people, even if we do not have as much of a problem on intelligence exchange, as the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, pointed out.
Of course people expect the Government to respond to such outrages, and it is important that the Government review their strategy and tactics and the emergency response to such events. However, this needs to be done carefully and in a considered way. We need to look at the nature of the threat. As I have just said, it is not like Irish republican terrorism, which used to be based on a formal, hierarchical organisation that could be infiltrated, planning logistically sophisticated attacks. Islamism is a violent political ideology that wants to overthrow democracy and liberal values, and is perhaps more akin to the Red Army Faction, conducting guerrilla tactics against society.
Rather than a conventional organisation, ISIS is more a political idea that inspires people. There are two types of extremists: the first, intellectuals who have a corrupt and distorted view of Islam, which drives them to recruit the second, the foot soldiers. These are usually vulnerable, impressionable young men with a criminal past, who are encouraged to continue their previous criminal and violent behaviour in the name of Islamism. I draw the probably imperfect parallel between sophisticated, organised drug dealers who import and distribute illegal drugs but never leave their fingerprints on the packages, and the street dealers—petty criminals who are seen as disposable and easy to replace if they get arrested, leaving the masterminds unaffected.
Many suicide attackers are people who can get together on one day and carry out an attack the next. Even more sophisticated attacks can involve only person, and so communications between people are not necessarily helpful. What was helpful in every one of these attacks were changes in behaviour of those involved, as noticed by friends, relatives and neighbours. We heard that in the London Bridge attack, where a neighbour who was interviewed said that they were suspicious of the way that one of the people involved was behaving on the day of the attack by asking about how to hire a van and so forth. That is why many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Bach, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, all mentioned the importance of community policing. If we are to encourage people from communities to come forward with information about changes in behaviour in those to whom they are close, those communities must have trust and confidence in the authorities. They have concerns about passing information to the security services because they do not know what the security services will do with it. A familiar and trusted face in the community to act as a conduit and provide reassurance is what community policing provides. That is why in our manifesto we had £300 million extra a year that could have been used to recruit an additional 8,000 community officers.
I have mentioned to the Minister before the fact that since 2010 we have lost almost 20,000 police officers and 24,000 support staff. When I mentioned that in an Oral Question, the Minister said that she did not recognise the figures. I hope that she can now say whether mine are correct. If not, perhaps she could write to me with the real figures as far as the fall in policing resources is concerned. As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has said, some cuts were clearly necessary. All public services had to tighten their belts to try to balance the books. But these cuts have now gone too far. It is not just cuts to community policing, but resilience in the face of terrorist attacks and the increased security that is required. We now have officers outside here whose days off are being cancelled—they are only getting one day off a week instead of two. They are working 12-hour shifts and becoming exhausted because there is not the capacity and resilience to be able to respond in these sorts of emergency situations.
As far as the internet is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, talked about the German approach of fining social media companies if they fail to act in taking down terrorist material. We know from our exploration of the issues around imposing age verification on adult websites that fining overseas-based tech companies is impractical. The only way that it can be done is to ask UK-based internet service providers to block websites that fail to comply with age verification, but that would not be a proportionate response to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and similar internet giants. We need international co-operation, particularly with the United States. An initiative started by Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister to appoint the Prime Minister’s special envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, is an example of the sort of international co-operation required. The new Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, Max Hill QC, said that the suggestion of punishing technology companies such as Facebook and Google for not acting on unacceptable content was not the best course of action because they needed to be “brought firmly onside”. Pushing material on to the dark web where counternarratives cannot be set alongside the violent political ideology of Islamism is not the way to go. We are very fortunate to have the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, in the House. We should listen very carefully to what she says from her position of expert knowledge.
Weakening encryption makes us all, including the Government and business, open to exploitation by criminals and hostile foreign Governments, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, said. Even end-to-end encryption does not prevent the tracking of useful metadata: who is communicating with whom, even if the content is not readily accessible? Equipment interference, where individuals who are suspected of serious crime or terrorism are known, provides a solution to accessing the content of end-to-end encrypted messages.
What about the question of more legislation? In the light of the spate of recent attacks, it is understandable that we should review the current situation in terms of practices and legislation. We have set out our position in a policy paper entitled Safe and Free which was approved at the party conference last autumn. It states that we believe that there is no need to change our position in the light of the recent attacks. The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 goes too far in terms of some blanket surveillance, and we are not alone in saying that. The pressure group Liberty has been given permission by the High Court to challenge the legality of some of the measures in the Act.
“It’s perfectly natural that we should all feel that we must do more, we must do something to combat what we are facing. My view coming into the scrutiny which we are told the prime minister wants to conduct is that we do have the appropriate laws in place, and that essentially the police and security services, and those whose job it is to keep us safe, do have the powers at their disposal.”
We have no objection to the complete surveillance of suspects where there is reasonable cause to suspect that they are involved in terrorism. What we object to is the storing of vast amounts of data on every member of the UK population on databases vulnerable to being accessed by criminals and hostile foreign powers, just in case less than 1% of those records come in handy in future prosecutions. The security services have consistently maintained, as they did when the former Labour Government tried to introduce 90 days’ detention of terrorist suspects without charge, that the internet connection records of every UK citizen are not necessary for them to keep us safe.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, talked about the Prevent strategy and the definition of extremism. The definition as set out in the Government’s counterterrorism strategy is too broad. By their definition the DUP would be included, so clearly something somewhere is not right. There are serious concerns about the Government’s Prevent programme. Indeed, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation shares our views on it. He wrote in the Evening Standard that many in the Muslim community felt unjustifiably targeted by Prevent and asked, if there is evidence that their concerns are not justified, why the Government will not produce it; they refuse to publish the results of their own internal review and refuse to allow an independent review of Prevent. He goes on:
“Prevent is controversial, to the point where reputable community organisations refuse to engage with it … Significant reform is required”.
We need a mature and proportionate response to the threat we face. We have the best police and security services in the world, which are doing everything they possibly can to keep us safe. The recent spate of terrorist outrages are not a sign of failure; the many more plots that have been thwarted in recent years are a sign of success. The police and the security services deserve our respect, our admiration and our wholehearted support, but they can succeed only with the help and support of all communities in the UK. To do that, our laws and the way we use them must win their trust and confidence.
My Lords, this has been an interesting and thoughtful debate and I thank the Government for providing the opportunity to raise some areas of potential, if not necessarily always actual, concern. It was the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, I think, who urged the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, to answer the questions raised in this debate by giving us her personal views. If the noble Baroness does that and her personal views differ from those of the Government, this may be one of her last appearances at the Dispatch Box even at a time when Cabinet Ministers do not always seem to be expressing a common policy line.
Inevitably, in a debate on this issue the Government will be limited to a greater or lesser degree in the amount of detail they feel able to give in response to issues raised. From the Opposition’s point of view, the inevitable lack of such detail makes it difficult to challenge and hold any Government to account, but I hope there are Ministers, however few, who know exactly what our security and intelligence services are doing and in what way, and that there are checks and balances so that Ministers are not simply dependent on what they are told.
That is not a criticism of anybody; it is simply what ought to be the case in a democracy where there is accountability through elected leaders. There is, of course, the joint Intelligence and Security Committee, but the Government can hardly be expected to answer for it. In any case, it cannot be answerable to the people of this country for the effectiveness of the role it undertakes in the way that a Government and Ministers can for their actions and decisions. However, it would be helpful if the Government could provide an assurance that even if the number of Ministers in the know is small, they are satisfied that they have sufficient control over and knowledge of what our security and intelligence services are doing to be able to say that there can be no significant or potentially controversial activity that our security and intelligence services had undertaken of which they were not aware.
There has been much discussion recently about public sector pay. I assume our security and intelligence service personnel have also had their pay capped for the last seven years in the same way as other public employees, including the police. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that or otherwise. If that is the case, what impact has that had first on morale, secondly on recruitment and retention rates, and thirdly on the number of posts vacant? Has this vacancy figure increased or decreased over the last few years?
The Government have said that more resources have been put into intelligence and security services. Will they confirm what that increase has been in each of the last three years? Will the Minister also say who determines where existing and additional resources will be directed? Is it ultimately a ministerial decision in the sense that it at least requires ministerial agreement, or is the issue of priorities and where resources are directed one that is left entirely for the intelligence and security services to decide?
Governments often talk about the need to get value for money. I assume the same applies to our security and intelligence services. If that assumption is correct, what are the criteria against which a judgment is made on whether our security and intelligence services maximise value for money in respect of their resources? Equally, and perhaps more importantly, how do we know the extent to which a lack of resources may be impeding the effectiveness of our security and intelligence services with potentially serious consequences?
In the current climate, our security and intelligence services have never maintained that they can or will be able to stop every attempted act of terrorism from succeeding. They have always said in the current situation that it is a case of when rather than if, but have also quite rightly drawn attention to the number of occasions on which they have been successful in nipping a significant number of likely such acts in the bud. The significant number of successful prosecutions for terrorist or terrorist-related offences is of course a matter of hard fact. From that we should take considerable comfort and for that we should all be extremely grateful for the work they do.
In recent months, we have had four high-profile terrorist incidents in which varying numbers of lives have tragically been lost. In some of these instances it has been reported that the perpetrators have been known to the security and intelligence services. There can of course be different interpretations of the relevance of that situation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, said. As I understand it, the Government have asked the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson, to look into issues surrounding these recent attacks. What doubt or concern led the Government to ask David Anderson to undertake this exercise? What exactly are his terms of reference? When will the report, and to what extent will his findings, be made public?
The Government intend to establish a counterterrorism commission. What existing government concerns or issues is the commission meant to address which are not being addressed at present or not being addressed adequately? In addition, what activities currently undertaken by other bodies or individuals will in future be undertaken by the counterterrorism commission, and to what extent will its work be new and not undertaken at present? What kind of budget will the commission have?
The Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has said—the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, referred to it—that existing statutory powers are sufficient to address current threats from a legal powers point of view, although he has indicated that sentencing levels should be reviewed. On both these issues, is the Government’s view the same as that of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and, if not, what is the hard evidence that further legislation would make our security and intelligence services more effective in combating terrorism and related acts? Were any of the four recent incidents in London and Manchester not prevented because of insufficient legal powers as opposed, for example, to insufficient resources to cope fully with current workloads or just plain bad luck? Is this one of the questions on which David Anderson has been asked to report?
One area where there has been a reduction in resources is in our police, whose numbers have been cut over the past seven years. The Government’s argument has been that, since crime rates have fallen, this has not caused a problem. Crimes of violence, however, are on the rise; the level of hate crime has increased; cybercrime, which affects individuals and large corporations alike, has gone through the roof, and there is now heightened concern over acts of terrorism both here and in mainland Europe.
Our security, police and intelligence services play a key role in combating acts of terrorism; so, too, do the public, as other noble Lords have already said, not least my friend Lord Harris of Haringey. One way in which the role of the public is vital is through drawing the attention of the police to those whose actions and words suggest they might be open to being persuaded or encouraged to contemplate such acts. Yet cuts have been made in community neighbourhood policing—the very police personnel who have built up the closest contact and relationship with the communities they serve and who are most likely to have the confidence of those communities. That confidence is so vital to picking up and being given information and can not only reduce the level of long-term crime but help in combating acts of terrorism and hate crime and in preventing people going down that road. My noble friend Lord Bach spoke powerfully on the impact of cuts on neighbourhood policing and on policing in general. The effectiveness of the Prevent strategy can only have been weakened by the cuts to community neighbourhood policing.
Concerns have been expressed about the approach to the Prevent strategy as opposed to its concept or purpose. Terrorism is not confined to those who claim to act in the murderous and thuggish way they do in the name of a particular faith or religion. As has already been said, Jo Cox MP was murdered by a right-wing extremist, and the perpetrator of the attack at the Finsbury Park mosque certainly was not claiming to be doing it in the name of Islam, any more than do those behind the recent increased levels of hate crime against Muslims and against women Members of Parliament. Yet for many Muslims the Prevent strategy seems to be aimed primarily at them, and with it the inference that Muslims as a whole are both the source of terrorism and supporters of terrorism. That does nothing to enhance trust and confidence, and nothing to encourage the flow of information which is so vital in preventing and combating acts of terrorism, acts which do not distinguish between faiths when it comes to those who are killed or maimed as a result. Indeed, the hard facts show that those who commit acts of terrorism or hate crime are more than likely to already have criminal records. That suggests either that they are easily led by those with extreme political views, or that they simply choose to adopt a violent approach to those groups they decide they do not like: that is the key factor behind the acts they commit, rather than any credible adherence to any faith or religion. They do not deserve the cover for their actions which they claim a faith or religion provides, and no faith or religion deserves them.
Cybercrime has become an issue of real concern, both when individuals, often vulnerable individuals, are the victims, and also when major companies and organisations, including Governments, are the targets. The acts appear to be committed by individuals who see it as a game, by individuals and organisations which are in it for illicit financial gain or competitive advantage, or by those who act for or with the full knowledge of nation states against other nation states. We appear to be in a situation where our major public utilities, our banking and financial services system and our health service, for example, are potentially at risk of being brought nearly to their knees by such attacks. Presumably, the threat is also there in respect of neutralising or reducing the capability and effectiveness of our Armed Forces.
I appreciate, of course, that there will be real limits to what the Government will want to disclose, but how are decisions made on the resources that need to be made available to protect us from cyberattacks in a situation where the speed of technological advance is rapid, and where keeping ahead of the game is vital? Is the provision of resources to combat the threat of cyberattacks, particularly by or with the blessing of other nation states, affected by financial constraints, or do we provide whatever resources are needed to combat those threats? Lower down the line, have our police forces been given the resources, skills and capabilities needed to combat the rapid increase in the types of cybercrime with which they increasingly have to deal? Are decisions on how such resources are allocated determined by individual chief constables and police and crime commissioners when they draw up budgets, or are such matters determined on a national basis, and, if so, by whom? The effectiveness of the National Crime Agency in combating cybercrime, which recognises no individual police force boundaries, can be hampered only if individual police forces do not regard putting more resources into combating this particular type of crime as a priority when forced to make such choices through being stretched, which is how more than one commissioner or chief constable has recently described their current situation.
There is also the role of service providers, as well as government, in preventing the internet and cyberspace being used to spread extremism and hatred, or as a vehicle for planning acts of terrorism. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, spoke about this and, in particular, about what can and cannot realistically be achieved. The decision to withdraw from the European Union, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, referred, could affect co-operation with other European nations through European agencies—the European arrest warrant, for example—which are key parts of the armoury in the constant battle to combat serious crime, including terrorism. What undertakings are the Government prepared to give today at the Dispatch Box that, whatever else emerges at the end of the negotiations on our withdrawal from the European Union, our existing membership of the European agencies and procedures involved in combating crime, including terrorism, will continue to no lesser extent than they do today?
In 2015, the Government announced proposals to introduce a new extremism Bill, but no such Bill ever materialised. In 2016, a counterextremism and safeguarding Bill was announced, but no detailed proposals ever emerged. That may well have been no bad thing. There has been a cross-government review of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy, known as Contest. There have been reviews of the Prevent strategy. We now have a review by Mr David Anderson. There is now going to be a commission for countering extremism. With this Government, there is quite a lot of talk about what they intend to do to counter the threats of extremism and terrorism, whether through Bills or reviews, but all too often not enough action to address the problems our police, security and intelligence services actually face. Indeed, some government actions have made the situation worse, not least through the reductions in community neighbourhood policing. There is also the reality that additional resources found for counterterrorism activities, particularly on the police side, can be at the expense of resources able to be directed at other significant areas of crime.
During the election, following a terror attack in London, the Prime Minister said that, “Enough is enough”. That is true: we have had enough talk. We now have to provide the resources needed to address the major increase in the number of investigations our hard-pressed security, intelligence and police forces have to handle, and end a situation where chief constables, commissioners and PCCs are uncertain whether they are still going to be asked to accept further cuts in real terms—further “efficiency savings”, as they are often called—when they are already using the euphemism that their forces and budgets are being “stretched”.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. It has been a very good debate, with some wide-ranging comments from different parts of the House and on different aspects of security. I am particularly grateful to see such representation on the Cross Benches from the intelligence services in one way or another. I will start with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, who said that this is very complex and the solution will not be a quick fix. She is absolutely correct, which is why we have been debating this for so long, and rightly so.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, made a very profound speech, I thought, and talked about how rapid the response of our emergency services was but that, for the people who were caught up in the attack, it probably seemed like it took for ever for them to get there. That said, some emergency services were there within seconds, all of them within minutes. He also talked about the police presence in London versus our freedoms. I do not know about other noble Lords, but when I first came back to London after the attacks, it felt like a very different London from that which I had left several weeks earlier.
The noble Lord and I have talked a lot about securing the border. We adopt a rigorous approach to border security. As he knows, this includes effective working between agencies to manage the threat posed by terrorism, serious organised crime and immigration. It includes specific briefings to those who work at the border on how to identify those potentially returning to the UK from conflict zones. It includes carrying out 100% immigration and security checks at the primary control point, advanced checks where available, and intelligence-led targeting at ports. We have contingency plans in place for a full range of situations and are able to flex our resources appropriately. For example, between 2010 and September 2016, more than 1,500 people were arrested for terrorism-related offences. We refused entry to nearly 9,000 EEA nationals; nearly 6,000 of these were stopped at our juxtaposed borders. In total, more than 116,000 people were refused entry to the UK, with nearly 30,000 of those stopped at the juxtaposed borders, to help keep us all safe.
The noble Lord has also talked to me on several occasions, and we have had several Questions in the House, about firearms and the effectiveness of the border. As he will know, the Home Office continually reviews the approach to border security. Border Force invested £68 million in technology and infrastructure in 2016-17, a 70% uplift on the previous year, to make our already secure borders even stronger. Building on the learning from successful multiagency work on firearms in 2016, a multiagency firearms unit was recently established. This is being led by the National Crime Agency and counterterrorism policy, and it is co-ordinating law enforcement activity to disrupt the supply of illegal firearms and to improve our understanding of the terrorist and organised crime threat in the UK and internationally.
The noble Lord asked about protective security and barriers. Protective barriers are only one part of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy. The national barrier asset for the temporary mitigation of vehicle threats is available for all police forces. We continue to expand it as a resource and ensure that its deployment is considered where required for events.
The noble Lord also asked me about protecting events, the licensing of major events and staff training. Specifically on protective security for events, the protection and preparedness of events are dealt with through operational policing efforts overseen by a common team with the counterterrorism element dealt with by a security co-ordinator. Mandating requirements on event owners through licensing would need to be very carefully considered and would have to be appropriate and proportionate for all event organisers, as the noble Lord will appreciate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, made some very good points about the types of attacks that we are experiencing now, the knowledge of those attacks, the tempo of attacks—nobody can disagree that the tempo of attacks has significantly increased over recent months—and the high level of plots, and said that the level of “severe” is justified and the level of “critical” for that week was totally justified. She talked about the difference in recent years with the number of people on lists as being of interest has gone up massively since as few as 10 years ago and she wondered whether the pattern of low-tech or low-sophistication is going to continue. It looks like a pattern. If she would like, I will write to her further on what we expect patterns to be, but I suspect it is a national security question and I will not be able to answer, but she of all people will understand that. The noble Baroness also rightly talked about the 18 plots that have been foiled in recent months. That is a huge number, but that is not to detract from the number we have seen. She mentioned that the solution will not be a quick fix.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford talked about the unifying values the Government have envisaged. Some of the programmes we have had in recent months and years have homed in on those unifying values. He mentioned the Near Neighbours projects which have been so good in promoting the unifying values of cohesive communities in our society.
My noble friend Lord King talked very interestingly about Northern Ireland never having had suicide bombers—that is so true—and said that they were at least sensitive to public opinion. I do not know how sensitive they were to public opinion, but certainly after the events of Enniskillen there was a big backlash and they thought long and hard. We are in different times. I was also very impressed that my noble friend knows all about Snapchat—it was my children who told me about it. We have this climate now of rapid communications, for good or for bad, as he pointed out. He also talked about the problems coming upstream created by population explosion and failed states, of which there are several, and mentioned the interesting fact about water shortages in Iran that might necessitate further population movements in the future.
In the interlude while the Statement was on, we talked outside about the production of videos by ISIL, or Daesh. These videos are very appealing to a certain minority of people, as are the other messages that are produced and appear on social media. He is absolutely right that Germany is getting CSPs to take internet content down, but the Home Secretary has also been very successful in this area. She was in Ottawa last month and we secured support from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US for our campaign to take terrorist material offline. Together we announced that companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter will form a new global industry forum to tackle terrorist use of the internet. This is a huge step forward. We have been absolutely clear that hateful content used to recruit and radicalise should not be allowed on their platforms and that it must be removed more quickly and more proactively. As one noble Lord said, we have done it without legislation, by agreement, and that is the right way to work together internationally, as my noble friend said.
My noble friend also asked about legislating to fine companies for not removing content. We are, as I have said, trying to work with them and will also explore the possibility of creating a legal liability for communications service providers if they fail to take the necessary action to remove content. But the relationship with them so far has been very productive and positive.
The noble Lord, Lord Bach, talked about CT and community policing and the value of the latter in identifying where there might be extremism or moves towards terrorism. We know that crime is changing and are sensitive to current pressures on policing. We are absolutely mindful of the pressure that the police have been under in the several terrorist attacks that we have faced, and indeed in the Grenfell Tower incident, which left many of them absolutely exhausted. We have protected police spending since 2015, but we are in talks with them to ensure that, on the back of what we have seen, they have enough resources to be able to carry out the jobs that they need to do.
The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, talked about co-operation with CSPs. As I have just said, we have made significant progress in that area. She also talked very positively about the positive things about the internet. We are tonight talking about some of the bad things that can happen on the internet, but of course it is a very positive force for good in so many ways. Are we as policymakers keeping up? I have just confessed to the House that I had not heard of Snapchat until my daughter talked about it. It is absolutely vital that we know what we are talking about when we are making laws on this. I hope that we take plenty of advice from people such as the noble Baroness. She talked about the domination of online by the big five. It is true: they do. She also talked about the crackdown on the jihadis notion by CSPs. They have taken a huge amount of content down: 270,000 pieces of inappropriate internet material since 2010.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, questioned the value of Prevent and called for it to be reviewed. We think that it has made a significant impact on preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. It delivered 142 community-based projects in 2015-16, reaching more than 42,000 participants. We have trained more than 850,000 front-line staff in Prevent, including NHS staff and teachers. Significantly, we disrupted 150 journeys to the Syria-Iraq conflict in 2015.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about the definition of extremism and asked whether it is too broad. We still stand by it. The 2015 strategy sets out the definition. It is,
“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.
Extremists seek to undermine these values and divide communities, but I agree that there is much more that we can do. The noble Baroness asked whether the commission for countering extremism will be statutory. Ministers are considering the delivery options for the commission and will bring forward legislation if necessary. The Government will make an announcement in due course.
The noble Baroness also asked why the Government have not published the Islamist extremism funding review in the light of the recent attacks in London and Manchester. The review has improved the Government’s understanding of the nature, scale and source of funding for Islamist extremism in the UK. Ministers are considering advice about what in the report can be published and will update Parliament in due course.
The noble Baroness also asked about Saudi aiding and funding of radicalisation and whether the Government are prioritising economic benefit over security by keeping the funding part of the report back. The UK has vital national security and prosperity interests in maintaining and developing our relationship with the Gulf region, including how we work together to tackle the threat of extremism and terrorism. The Government are determined to cut off funding which fuels the evils of extremism in the UK, including from overseas, and will continue to work closely with our international partners to tackle the shared threat.
The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked whether leaving the EU puts our national security at risk. It is in all our interests that we continue our deep co-operation with the EU and its member states to tackle threats together. We will seek a strong and close future relationship with the EU, with a focus on operational and practical cross-border co-operation. Security and law enforcement co-operation with our EU and global allies remains of the utmost importance and we will have close and effective operational relationships with international partners.
The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, also asked about the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU saying that we will withdraw from Prüm. No decisions have been taken regarding how the UK will continue to co-operate with the EU on tackling cross-border crime and security threats, as this will be a matter for negotiation. He also asked about our membership of Europol once we leave. Law enforcement co-operation with the EU will continue after the UK leaves the EU, and we will do what is necessary to keep our country safe.
My noble friend Lord Marlesford asked about my letter to him. It was with him today, or at least, it was deposited today, and I hope that he will enjoy reading it. If there are any matters arising from it, he can get back to me. He also asked why the UK cannot arrest everyone who tries to return to the UK from Syria. Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be reviewed by the police to determine if they have committed any crimes, and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security. Those who have committed a criminal offence should expect to be prosecuted for their crimes under the full range of existing counterterrorism legislation. However, any decision on whether to prosecute will be taken on a case-by-case basis. There have already been several successful prosecutions for those who have returned from Syria, and this includes a 12-year custodial sentence for a British national who took part in terrorist training camps in Syria, and helped to create recruiting videos for Daesh.
My noble friend also asked about our taking Syrian returners’ passports away. Section 40 of the British Nationality Act 1981 provides for the deprivation of British citizenship where the Secretary of State is satisfied that it is conducive to the public good and would not make an individual stateless. He also asked about the Muslim Brotherhood. We continue to monitor a number of organisations, but we do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription. We are always ready to examine any new evidence that is shared with us, which would be measured against the UK’s own legal framework.
The noble Lord, Lord Desai, talked about the history of the last 100 years, and my noble friend Lord King helpfully intervened. My conclusion on the contributions from both noble Lords was that it is definitely complicated, without giving my own opinion on the last 100 years.
On the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne’s contribution, I think I have gone through the issue of police funding. I have not mentioned CT police funding. We have a constructive and ongoing dialogue with police colleagues, including the Metropolitan Police, about ensuring that the right powers, capabilities and resources are in place. We remain committed to increasing cross-government spending on CT by 30%, from £11.7 billion to £15.1 billion. The overall CT police spend has been protected in real terms against the 2015 baseline over the spending review period. We have allocated £633 million of resource funding and £42 million of capital funding to support counterterrorism policing in 2017-18. In addition, a further £32 million will be provided for armed policing from the police transformation fund in 2017-18.
The noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, talked about the internal review by MI5 and the police and asked when it would be complete. It will be thorough and will take time, but we expect David Anderson to conclude his work by the end of October, and he will then report his conclusions to the Home Secretary, copied to the Prime Minister and the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament.
I realise that I have gone over time, but if noble Lords will bear with me for a couple more minutes, I shall hopefully be able to get through the majority of responses.
The noble Lord asked when the review would be published. We will be as transparent as possible in making public David Anderson’s findings, and a summary of his conclusions will be made available publicly. However, to be thorough, the review will need to look in detail at sensitive material, as the noble Lord will appreciate, and we will not be able to publish some of the findings in full where it would compromise our ability to disrupt terrorists and prevent further attacks.
My noble friend Lord Attlee referred to local authorities and local planning. We keep preparedness under constant review. In addition to armed policing, on which I have already spoken, a multiagency capability is deployable from key locations in England, Scotland and Wales to an incident occurring anywhere in the UK. The national counterterrorism exercise programme works to ensure that the Government, police and other blue-light responders, the military and other agencies, are prepared to respond to terrorist attacks in the UK.
I have left out a load of questions from the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Rosser. Would they be okay for me to write to them, because I really am going over time now, at 24 minutes?
Recent events have reminded us all that the threats we face are real and persistent, but they have shown us that we have much to be thankful for, not least our strong and resilient communities and our world-leading emergency services, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for how they have responded in the past few weeks—and also our security and intelligence services. Those are the assets on which we will draw as we ensure the security of the United Kingdom.
House adjourned at 8.07 pm.