My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and associate these Benches with the Home Secretary’s sentiments concerning those affected by the terrorist outrages. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has just reiterated, there is no doubt that the blame for the suffering that was inflicted remains with those who carried out these criminal acts and those who supported them. As far as I am concerned, we have the best intelligence and policing services in the world.
It is important to explain what a “dramatic upshift” in terrorist threats actually means. Having been briefed by those at the highest level, my understanding is that the number of people being influenced by extremist propaganda, particularly online, who are then tempted to conduct unsophisticated attacks such as those at Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, is increasing. Can the Minister confirm that it is in the volume rather than the degree of sophistication, the amount of strategic planning or the co-ordination, that is seeing a “dramatic upshift” in the threat?
In the case of the Westminster, Manchester and Finsbury Park attacks, which were apparently carried out by so-called “lone wolf” attackers, can the Minister explain how end-to-end encryption mentioned by the Home Secretary would have made any difference to the likelihood of those attacks being prevented? Bearing in mind that in all these attacks, except the London Bridge attack, none of the murderers was under active investigation, how would their communications have been monitored, whether end-to-end encrypted or not? In the case of the one attacker who was an active subject of interest, can the Minister confirm that the investigative means that were deployed against him could have overcome end-to-end encryption? Is it not the fact that end-to-end encryption is a global issue that cannot be banned, and that we should be focused on what we can do something about, rather than on what we can do nothing about?
“find any key moments where different decisions would have made it likely that they could have stopped any of the attacks”?
The Home Secretary reflects David Anderson’s conclusion that intelligence is imperfect and investigators are making tough judgments based on incomplete information, and she promises to deliver the resources Counter Terrorism Policing needs to deal with the threats we face. Does the Minister agree that a vital part of the intelligence picture is provided by community policing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, alluded? The day after the London Bridge attack, a neighbour of one of the attackers told journalists how he thought that the man was being overfriendly and was asking about hiring a van without using a credit card on the day of the attack. Despite, as the Home Secretary said, a “number of” investigative means being deployed against him, this intelligence, which might have been discovered by a community policing team to whom the neighbour may have had links, did not surface until afterwards.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, among many others, have warned about the erosion of police resources and the demise of community policing. Despite assurances from Ministers to the contrary, the facts are that police budgets continue to fall in real terms. For example, the Metropolitan Police has already had to make savings of £600 million, with £400 million of cuts in the pipeline. Does the Minister agree that effective community policing is as important, if not more important, against the current unsophisticated threat, as Counter Terrorism Policing, and that community policing must also have the resources needed to deal with these threats?