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Activity is not connected or coherent.
We measure meetings and reports, not real world impact.
The strategy is immature. Forward planning is disjointed or has yet to occur. Accountability for delivery is weak. Real world impact is seldom measured.
The Home Secretary has controversially described his own Department as unfit for purpose. Is he confident that that Department is capable of correcting the serious problems highlighted by the Prime Ministers own delivery unit? Is it not the case that the necessary grip on the overall counter-terrorist effort will be taken only if there is a single Minister of Cabinet rank dedicated solely to dealing with the threat? Would we not be much more certain that our counter-terrorist strategy was both well designed and properly implemented if we had the benefit of an independent inquiry into the failure of that strategy that permitted the terrible events of July last year?
John Reid: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the way in which he started by referring to the consensus around the publication of the reportbut I regret the way in which he ended. I think that he referred to the failure of our systems with reference to 7/7. We should not underestimate just what protection this country has gained from our security services. Four times in the past year alone we have prevented a terrorist threat through the acumen, bravery and commitment of our services in this country. The old adage that we, and they, have to win every time, but the terrorists have to win and get through only once, is true. We should be a little quicker to understand and support our security services and a little slower to condemn them, implicitly or otherwise.
May I refer to some of the other matters that the right hon. Gentleman raised? He asked whether we were urging the public to take specific or general action. We have given some broad headlines on page 33, under the heading, What can the public do to help?, which explain what people can do both in their own communities and in response to threat levels. That includes:
identifying and reporting unusual or suspicious
circumstances. An anti-terrorist hotline, on 0800 789321, has been available for some time to anyone who wishes to draw to our attention anything that they think is noteworthy. Obviously, when people are travelling abroad, they could keep in touch with the Foreign Office. People can also help by
working in their own community,
and so on. So, in a general sense, there are things that the public can do, but as I said earlier, whatever the threat level, I hope that people will be vigilant at all times. It is only by the united action of the united peoples of the United Kingdom that we will eventually counter this threat.
As for specific threats, the position has been made clear by successive Home Secretaries, and by the Prime Minister. If there is a specific threat against a specific target, we will of course warn people, but as everyone in the House will know, we have to be wary about acting on general information and issuing warnings when they are not justified by the evidence. I merely point out that before 7/7, when the Government, under previous Home Secretaries, pointed out that there was a threaton the advice of our intelligence services, and having taken into account all the considerationsOpposition Members accused us of crying wolf. It is difficult to judge between being over-cautious and being over-dramatic in alerting the public. We always face that problem.
As for the self-critical analysis of our strategy, it is true that last October, barely two years after we set up the strategy, the Prime Minister commissionedas he ought to have donean analysis and a self-critical examination of the operations of our intelligence services, particularly the Contest strategy, as one would expect. We take the lessons of that analysis very seriously, and we are doing everything possible to make sure that we improve our performance at every opportunity.
We have put in many more resources, and about £2 billion is going into general counter-terrorism and resilience work. We are spending four times as much on special branch and policing counter-terrorism activities as we did a few years ago. The resources are going in and lessons are being learned, and tomorrow there will be a debate in which such points can be discussed in far greater detail.
Mr. Nick Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): I join other hon. Members in passing on condolences on behalf of my party to everyone who suffered or was bereaved by the attacks on 7 July last year. I, too, thank the Home Secretary for the advance notice of his statement.
I welcome what the Home Secretary said about the new system of threat and response levels, and I look forward to examining the document in more detail.
Will he provide me with one small point of clarification? Does the new system of response levels replace the old system of alert state levels, which was used in key public buildings such as the Palace of Westminster? He will remember that the Intelligence and Security Committee called for greater simplicity in the terminology that is used, and it is important to include greater clarity in the new system that the Home Secretary announced today.
The Home Secretary spoke eloquently of the need to work with all communities to tackle the social factors underlying radicalisation, to block the ways radicalisation takes place, and to counter the radicals arguments. Does he agree with the comments made last week by his hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) that the Governments follow-up to the excellent work by the seven working groups under the aegis of the Preventing Extremism Together initiative has been somewhat weak? Of the 64 recommendations, I think that only a handful have been implemented.
I noted the right hon. Gentlemans comments on the High Court judgment on 28 June on a number of control orders and the Governments intention to appeal. Notwithstanding that appeal, could he comment on the public remarks made by the independent reviewer of the anti-terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew, that the control orders could easily be amended in detail and in substance to bring them into line with the High Court judgment without abrogating any of our obligations under the European convention on human rights?
Finally, I note that the Home Secretary refers, rightly, to the need to strengthen the UKs border security and tracking systems. How far advanced are the plans to implement an e-borderelectronic bordersystem, and is he warming at all to the argument made by a number of us for some time that there is an overwhelming need for a single integrated border police, if we are to take all the measures necessary to tackle the ongoing terrorist threat?
Yes, the response levels that I announced today are a replacement for the alert levels to which he referred. On the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Mr. Khan) about the progress of Preventing Extremism Together, I listened carefully to what was said, and I think it is important that we undertake some self-criticism. We always want to push to do more. I do not agree with many of the comments that my hon. Friend made on this occasion, although I agree on the necessity to do a lot more.
Nine towns and cities with large Muslim populations were visited, for instance, by Home Office Ministers. Seven community-led working groups were set up under the banner of Preventing Extremism Together. Out of the 64 recommendations, 27 were for the Government to lead on. We have agreed action on all 27. Three have already been completed. I can give the hon. Gentleman details on those, if he wishes. One of them is youth matters, with the Department for Education and Skills and the Green Paper. One is extending opportunities legislation to cover discrimination on the grounds of faith, and expansion of the Muslim ethnic achievement project.
Work on 17 of the recommendations is in progress. Three are still under consideration; two have not been taken forward. From memory, one of those is powers to close places of worship. I cannot offhand remember the other one, but I can write to the hon. Gentleman about it. The three principal recommendations in which the Government were involvedthe scholars roadshow, the Muslim forums against extremism, and the mosque and imams national advisory boardhave been completed. So a great deal of work has already been done, but I am the first to admit that we have a lot more to do.
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall not go any further on the question of control orders because there is an appeal outstanding. It would be wrong at this time to comment on the learned Lord Carliles views.
On immigration and nationality, the hon. Gentleman may know that I promised when I took over as Secretary of State at the Home Office that those areas where I perceived inadequaciesthat was not the whole of the Home Office; I was misrepresented earlier, but I did discern and identify publicly areas where there were serious inadequacies in my viewI would come back within 100 days and put forward a programme for overhauling the Home Office, reforming the immigration and nationality directorate and rebalancing the criminal justice system. There are a few days left, but I promise the hon. Gentleman that before he goes off, I will bring make proposals on all three.
Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best memorial to those who died or who were injured last year is the effectiveness of our efforts to tackle future terrorism?
In regard to the work that is going on to prevent the growth of violent extremism, does my right hon. Friend accept that although many things have been done during the past year, this vital work needs a level of clear-sighted and consistent ministerial leadership, which has been lacking during the past 12 months? It is quite true to say that the voices that are most likely to persuade young Muslims away from violence are the voices of other Muslims, but what Government do, and the way in which Government work with those people, can be crucial in helping them to be as effective as possible. On that issue, is my right hon. Friend aware that I share the view that has been expressed that a Minister with responsibility for counter-terrorism would be desirable, but in the absence of that, can my right hon. Friend say which Minister will personally lead on, and take responsibility for, the delivery of the prevention strand of the counter-terrorist strategy?
As ever, my right hon. Friend makes very good points. He will understand if I try to avoid any imputation that I am criticising anyone who has previously held a post involved in this matter. However, I agree that we can always improve, and the fact that this matter is under the direct lead of my right hon. Friend at the Department with responsibility for
communities and work in the communities, as well as local government, means that a major element of this will now be given an impetus. She leads on that
On the serious matter, my right hon. Friends point is that a focus and concentration on community engagement in the radicalisation programme, and understanding it better in ideological terms and confronting it in debate and discussion, would make a major addition [Interruption.] I am presenting this statement today on the full counter-terrorist strategy. My right hon. Friend asked not merely about counter-terrorism, but about engagement in the Muslim community at the grassroots level, which is a good thing to do on its own, not just to prevent terrorism. I am agreeing with him and I am saying that that will now be given a new impetus because my right hon. Friend is leading it up.
Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con): The Home Secretary will understand that those with London constituencies with thousands of constituents travelling into the centre every day share a particular concern about what he tells the House today. But on the specific points that he made about his five-point threat level, he explained that news of it would be available on the Security Service and Home Office websites. However, realistically, after a while, how many people will check that before they set off for work in the morning? Is the right hon. Gentleman having discussions with some of the public transport operators about other ways in which the threat levels can be advertised, particularly to commuters into central London, so that people do not have to search for specialist sites to find out how at risk they might be just going to work?
John Reid: Yes, I am willing to do that. If the hon. Gentleman has ideas, I will be happy to receive them and I will consider them carefully. We have made an assumption that when the threat level, if it is made public, moves in any significant direction, it is likely to be followed by the media, but, of course, there are many other ways in which it could be made available, and we will always look to them.
Let me take the opportunity to correct one point. I said in response to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) that one of the matters that we had not proceeded with was the proposal to close places of worship, but was one of the considerations in the Prime Ministers 12-point plan, rather than one in the Preventing Extremism Together programme.
Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab):
Given that the public did not understand the difference between the threat level and the alert state in the past, given that different threat levelsnow, apparently, response
levelscould apply to different parts of the critical national infrastructure, and given that one could reduce the threat level but not the alert state, as happened before 7 July, and that that was understood by practitioners but not the public, do we not, without wishing to be alarmist, need to say rather more to the public than appears on websites and in the papers published today, so that they can better understand what is being proposed?
John Reid: The complexity that my hon. Friend outlines with regard to the response level, as opposed to the threat level, is one of the reasons why it is not to be published. Threat levels will be published. However, there is a degree of complexity about response levels which, in addition to the utility that any would-be terrorist would find in a declaration of the response level, means that we should treat them differently from threat levels. Nevertheless, I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend in saying that we should maintain, as I said, a
review, with the Security Service and security practitioners, to ensure the maximum practical congruity between threat levels and response levels.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): Interdiction and, in particular, the prevention of errors in interdiction, are dependent on the rapid and accurate transmission of information. Sadly, the emergency services still cannot fully and properly communicate with each other, particularly on the highly vulnerable London underground system. On a wholly practical level, when will the Home Secretary secure the investment that will make the Airwave system work underground?
John Reid: The point about communications and co-ordination and threat levels was a lesson learned from the terrible events of 7/7. That is one of the areas that we will have to consider, and there will of course be a response later on. I said that today I would address two of the three things that we will do.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Without prejudicing prosecutions or security and intelligence, can the Secretary of State amplify on the gravity of the four terrorist attempts that have occurred over the past year? I think that he should beef up his information to the House and should be able to do so without prejudicing those things. We need to know how grave they were.
On gravity, the Secretary of State said that he did not want to criticise his predecessors. I do, in one respect, and I include in that the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). All Home Secretaries have failed to address the question of our seaports. I have been amazed by that time after time, long before it was fashionable to argue that we should have a dedicated, highly mobile police force. It is now rather late in the day. I urge the Home Secretary to take it from somebody who represents the riparian authorities of ports along the Thames that all over the
United Kingdom, our vulnerable portswell, my right hon. Friend gets the drift
John Reid: I thank my hon. Friend for his brief summary of a position that he made plain to me at considerably greater length in a private meeting. I got the point then, and I have got it now. I have passed his comments on to those who deal with such matters.
I will consider my hon. Friends first point, although I am not sure that the expression beef up is one that I would want to agree with. I will see whether there are any more details that we can put out, but I think that it is preferable if we keep this to the minimum. One of the problems that we have experienced in putting intelligence into the public domain is that going into great detail can expose or endanger the sources of that intelligence. However, if we then modified that detail to ensure that we do not expose ourselves to any risk as regards the sources, we could be accused of putting out something dodgy. I therefore prefer to keep it to the minimum at the moment.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee, East) (SNP): I agree with the Home Secretary that intelligence will play a crucial role in protecting us from a future terrorist attack. May I remind him of the specific counter-terror role undertaken by an individual from Strathclyde in ACPO Scotland? When the Home Secretary is considering the allocation of resources for counter-terrorism and intelligence, will he ensure that all parts of the UK are considered and that all the necessary resources are given to them?
John Reid: Of course we shall try to do that. Normally, when we make such allocations in our budget at UK level, Scotland receives a proportionate amountindeed, more than proportionate, depending on how it is calculatedto meet the needs of a third of the UKs landmass, though only 8 per cent. of the population. I would not want anybody to underestimate the amount of extra money that has gone into policing. As I said, approximately four times as much money is going into policing, through special branch and so on, and about £2 billion is going towards counter-terrorism and resilience.
The resources for MI5 are commensurate with the extent to which we can expand. There are limitations because we have to train people, who must be skilled in, for example, different languages and backgrounds now that we face a different threat.
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