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David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I thank the Home Secretary for bringing the House up to date and for his courtesy in keeping Opposition parties informed privately about developments during the past two weeks, when Britain has shown that it can and will come together to fight the new breed of terrorism that stalks our land.
The new breed of terrorism is extraordinarily calculatingal-Qaeda and its foot soldiers know precisely what they are trying to achieve by their wicked and despicable actions. The overarching aim of the 9/11 atrocity was publicly to destroy symbols of American economic and military power, in the twin towers and the Pentagon. The Madrid attack was designed to interfere in the domestic politics and foreign policies of Spain. The King's Cross atrocity, with its calculated trail of evidence leading deliberately back to the cities of northern England, was designed to demoralise and divide our communities and to set Muslim and non-Muslim against one another.
It is to this country's enormous credit that, in large part, that has not been allowed to happen. British people of all religions and none have stood together in the face of this appalling evil. As a result, almost two weeks on from that terrible Thursday morning in London, the terrorists and all who harbour and support them know that they simply have not won.
Our united response to terrorism stems from three separate sources; the Home Secretary referred to some of them. First, there are the police and the security services. I pay tribute to them at this time. They have come under considerable scrutiny in the days since 7 July, but we must never forget that when a terrorist gets through it is inevitably public, but when a terrorist is thwarted, it often remains secret. The services have acted with tremendous speed to identify those responsible, and continue to display the utmost professionalism in tracking down those behind them. In doing so, some of them have had to work in hideously unpleasant conditions, and I know that the whole House will want to join the Home Secretary in putting our gratitude on the record.
The second source is the Government and Parliament. I pay tribute to the calm and measured way in which the Government have conducted themselves in the last two weeks. They have been quick to make effective proposals to update our anti-terrorism laws, and I commend the Home Secretary for accepting our proposals to accelerate the process, without eroding proper parliamentary scrutiny.
The first new offence that the Home Secretary proposes, covering acts preparatory to terrorism, we have called for for some time. For the benefit of the House, will the Home Secretary describe the difference between that offence and simple conspiracy, or attempting to commit terrorist acts? I know that there are differences, and I would like him to outline them a little more, for the benefit of the House.
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I also welcome the new law on the indirect incitement of terrorism. It is much better focused than the alternative proposals that have been suggested in the past. As so much of the effectiveness of such a law depends on the drafting, will the Home Secretary ensure that early drafts are available as soon as possible in September, so that interested partiesnot just the Opposition parties, but bodies such as the Law Societycan pass judgment and therefore help to improve the law?
I also reiterate the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition during Prime Minister's questionsthat we continue to believe that allowing the use of phone tapping evidence in court will help even further.
As for practical actions, will the Home Secretary re-examine the security of Britain's ports? Reports have suggested that an individual connected with the attack may have entered the country through one of our ports and been seen, or missed, by the security services. I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to comment directly on that, but will he tell the House what action he is taking to ensure that all British airports and ports have the proper establishment levels, the special branch officers and the other staff to ensure that that sort of thing does not happen?
Finally, the attacks demand an active response from the community itself, particularly from prominent members of the Muslim community in Britain. They have already shown leadership over the past two weeks, and Muslims in communities across Britain have responded quickly and openly to requests for help from the security services and the police. The Home Secretary and I met senior members of all the faiths and community groups this morning, and they fully understand that the best way to fight home-grown terrorism is to root it out at its source. They have a clear responsibility to act, but there are several things that the Government can do to help.
There are good imams and bad imams, and it is no help to the good imams if we do not deal with the bad ones. Accordingly, I greatly welcome the Home Secretary's announcement today about strengthening his powers of exclusion, and his implicit reference to dealing with Sheikh Al Qaradawi and Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed. I hope that the Government will also consider going further, by looking to train, or to encourage the training of, more imams here in Britain, so that their teachings will be consistent with the society in which they preach.
I also hope that the Government will think about what they can do to deal with the issue of disaffected young people who travel to madrassahs, particularly in Pakistan, where some madrassahs appear to indoctrinate rather than educate. Action on that issue would be greatly welcomed.
Many words have been expended over the past two weeks as people from all areas of British society and beyond have united to condemn the attacks. As time goes on, those words will increasingly turn unto demands for action. With the proposals that the Government have set out this week, they have shown themselves ready to meet that demand, and I am happy to say that we continue to stand ready with them.
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Ultimately, tackling terrorism in Britain will be a combined effort, with politicians, the police, the security services and the community working together. That is what we have seen in the past two weeks, and that is why we have been able to make such swift progress in identifying those who committed the atrocity, tracking those who supported and abetted them, and learning lessons to improve our defences in future.
If the House will allow me to indulge in a personal comment, I may say that I have known and been a friend of the Home Secretary for 30 years. The last two weeks have probably produced the worst events and the most important decisions that he has had to take. If I may say so, I commend how he, personally, has responded to and risen to the occasion.
If in the days ahead we are able to carry forward that model, our society and our country really will have come out of this ordeal stronger. That, I think, would be the finest tribute to all those who, sadly, were killed or injured in London nearly two weeks ago.
Mr. Clarke: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his personal remarks, which I very much appreciate, and for the political support that he and his party have given to the whole of our approach. It is very important that we should work in the way that he has described, and I certainly can confirm my absolute determination to continue working in that way over the coming period.
The right hon. Gentleman raised several specific points. The offence relating to acts preparatory to an act of terrorism is intended to facilitate the prosecution of individuals known to have instigated an act of terrorism or to have been planning, preparing or conspiring to commit an act of terrorism. That is because there is a requirement to protect the public, which means that the police and security agencies may have to intervene early when they become aware of a terrorist cell, with the consequence that it may not be possible to know what precise atrocity was being planned. Indeed, the terrorists themselves might not have concluded on what form of action they would follow. That is the issue that we are trying to address with that offence.
I can commit the Government to making early drafts available in September and to doing so more widely than simply to the Opposition parties. That will allow us to look at where we are and see where we are going.
On interceptors evidence, the right hon. Gentleman will know that I still do not agree with the point that he is putting. However, as the Prime Minister made clear at Question Time, there is no issue of principle here; there is a practical issue of how to deal with it in a proper way. We shall continue discussing that point.
On ports, we shall continue to keep the situation very much under review. We shall look consistently at the security arrangements on ports, but I have to say that the co-operation in the way that the various agencies are working together is extremely good at this point.
Finally, the points that the right hon. Gentleman made about the community are absolutely true. I want to address two dimensions. From the very beginning, from Thursday 7 July, we have brought together faith leaders of different faiths who are already working strongly together and who need to continue to do so. They have been exemplary in the way in which they have operated, and we need to continue to develop that.
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The second strand, as the right hon. Gentleman implied, is to work with the Muslim community in particular to strengthen those forces within that community who want to develop their relationship with the wider society in a strong and constructive way. There are interesting issues about the training of imams that need to be addressed. I note that the Church of England and the Catholic Church have, through their teacher training colleges, which are now university colleges, found a range of ways of looking at some of the issues. It may well be worth exploring whether work could be taken forward in that way for the Muslim community and other faith communities. I hope that that will arise out of the conversations that we will hold.
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