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Laura Moffatt (Crawley): Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking those who work in international airports, especially Gatwick and Heathrow? They have performed an enormous task in coming out of their offices and assisting the security operation. Theirs has clearly been a difficult job for too long, but is it not remarkable that they are prepared to continue that mammoth task in the circumstances that airlines now face?
Mr. Hoon: Absolutely. Their task is difficult not least because, until 11 September, training for those close to airports and airlines was based on the assumption that they would be dealing with a rational threatthat they would be dealing with people who, in effect, wanted to exchange the safety and security of potential hostages for the fulfilling of some demand which, however irrational, could be dealt with in a sensible way. That training, and that approach, will now have to be adjusted to take account of those who no longer have a rational approach, but are essentially determined to bring about their own deaths and the deaths of as many other people as possible. That requires very different training and a very different approach. I commend all those in airports and airlines who have had to adjust to a very different and extraordinarily dangerous reality.
When I addressed the House two weeks ago, I talked about the valuable work of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat in pulling together contingency plans to deal with any incident that might occur. The plans involve a wide range of Government Departments and agencies, as well as bodies and institutions in the private sector. Many of the plans were drawn up long before 11 September; where necessary, they are being reviewed in the light of what happened.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already spoken about what we are doing in the diplomatic sphere. As the House is aware, the Prime Minister is playing a leading role in drawing together a global coalition, united in its determination to rid the world of this terrorist threat.
Lynne Jones: Does my right hon. Friend intend to deal with the points made by several Members about the need to bolster and extend the capability of international organisations such as the United Nations, and to set up an international criminal court? In particular, does he intend to address the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Mr. Wyatt) about the need to question the role of the veto within the Security Council? Finally, has he considered whether we should use resources that it is proposed should be deployed in national missile defence for purposes that would be more effective in resolving conflicts and combating global threats?
Mr. Hoon: I had not intended to deal with all those points specifically. However, the Government have been strongly committed to the international institutions. The UN is showing its very great strength in these particular difficulties. Certainly the Government have supported a process of reform within the UN. I am sure that my hon. Friend recognises that that process can proceed only by way of consensus within the UN. That approach has not always been the one that all Governments have been willing to take.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has indicated what we intend to do on the legislative front. The new Terrorism Act 2000 came into force in February, and extended the proscription regime to include 21 international organisations. As for the point made by the hon. Member for North Essex, the Act includes a definition of terrorism. Perhaps that is a useful starting point for examining terrorism both nationally and internationally. We are determined that the United Kingdom will not become a place where terrorists and their supporters can take refuge.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has set in hand an urgent review of the case for new powers, policies and other action that may be necessary in the light of what happened on 11 September. New legislation will be brought forward during this Session.
As I have mentioned, the existing legal powers to tackle terrorism have been updated very recently. They are among the toughest in the world. Even so, as a measure of our determination, these powers will still be reviewed. Consideration is being given to providing the courts with new powers, improving the appeals process and cutting off terrorists' access to the money that they use to finance their operations. The Home Office is also considering proposals for tightening the asylum system to deal with those who seek to abuse it. Against this background, it is considering the means by which transport companies obtain a wide range of information on arriving passengers and then provide it to law enforcement agencies. All these measures are expected to have benefits to law enforcement agencies that are fighting related threats to our society such as drugs and organised crime, a point well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton.
The Home Office is also considering tightening the laws on incitement to cover religious as well as racial hatred, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien) and other hon. Members.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Home Office has plans to deal with people such as Omar Bakri Muhammad and Abu Hamza, who are operating freely in our country and inciting people against our liberal traditions? They are inciting the wholesale murder of people with whom they disagree. What action will be taken against them? The people of Britain are offended that no action has been taken under the plethora of terrorist legislation that we already have.
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point in his usual style. The matter is being considered with some urgency in the Home Office. I understand that the shadow Home Office team has been briefed on the efforts that are being made.
On the economic front, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out earlier in the week the new measures that we intend to take to ensure that no bank or financial institution, national or international, will be able to offer a hiding place for terrorist funds without fear of prosecution. These measures include police monitoring of accounts that may be used for terrorism, police powers to seize cash throughout the country, police powers to freeze funds at the outset of an investigation. tougher obligations on banks and financial institutions to report transactions that they suspect may be related to terrorism, supervising the implementation of the money laundering regulations by bureaux de change and money transmitters and allowing the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise to exchange relevant information with law enforcement authorities.
These actions will be replicated across the world as nations respond to the obligations of the UN Security Council resolution 1373, taking the necessary measures to suppress the financing of terrorists and denying them a safe haven from which to operate.
We recognise the powerful points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson). [Interruption.] I shall eventually get the pronunciation right of the constituency of Clydebank and Milngavie.
The cold war ended 12 years ago. We knew what it meant when the Berlin wall came down. We knew that we were watching events that would reshape our lives, as we did when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre collapsed. The end of the cold war meant that threats to international stability were no longer likely to come from superpower rivalries, but instead from ethnic and religious conflict; population and environmental pressures; competition for scarce resources; drugs, crime and, of course, terrorism.
The process of implementing the review is still under way, but already we are seeing the results. Our armed forces have deployed to Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Macedonia, in each case acting with skill and determination and, only where necessary, with lethal force. They have, again and again, been a force for good in the world.
The strategic defence review leaves us well placed to take on and defeat international terrorism. We have significantly improved capabilities, reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, precision strike, rapid deployment, and sophisticated command and control, all of which will play their part in the campaign against international terrorism.
The attacks on the United States have shown us that we must build on this success and go further. We must look harder at the kind of asymmetric threat that we saw on 11 September. We must ensure that our concepts, force structures and capabilities are exactly those that we need. That deals with the point made by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth).
As I have already made clear, this will not be a new strategic defence review, but we need to add a new chapter to it and to look hard at our priorities in our plans and programmes, so that we can add capability where it countswhere it makes a difference. Just as the strategic defence review itself benefited from an open and inclusive approach, so will this further work draw fully on wider
The United Kingdom will respond to the challenge of meeting the new threats, but achieving our objectivesbringing Osama bin Laden to account, along with others who support him, and tackling the wider threat of international terrorism wherever it operates in our worldwill not be easy. We are embarking on a new mission, requiring a multifaceted approach on a number of different fronts. It will involve a series of deliberate, co-ordinated steps. Can I appeal to Members of the House to judge the success of the overall strategy not by individual actions, but only by the results of the whole?
Staying the course will be hard. It will be long. It may well be painful. We will have to show the patience and the resilience that we have shown in facing other threats in our history. Continuing the patient, careful strategy that we have begun is the way to achieve our goal. I know that the House will share our determination to see this through. At the very least, it is what we owe to those who died three weeks ago.