House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
COUNTER-TERRORISM AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS
IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE LONDON BOMBINGS
Tuesday 13 September 2005
RT HON CHARLES CLARKE, MP
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 13 September 2005
Mr John Denham, in the Chair
Mr Richard Benyon
Mr Jeremy Browne
Mr James Clappison
Mrs Ann Cryer
Mrs Janet Dean
Mr Nick Herbert
Mr Shahid Malik
Mr David Winnick
Witness: Rt Hon Charles Clarke, a Member of the House, Secretary of State for the Home Department, examined.
Chairman: Good morning, everyone. Home Secretary, thank you very much indeed for appearing as our first witness this morning. I hope you will bear with me for one moment because I do need to make an important statement before the Committee begins about our proceedings today. At today's hearing, we will be discussing issues relating to counter-terrorism and community relations in the aftermath of the London bombings. I should make it clear to the press and the public that there are some restrictions on our questioning which arise from the House's sub judice rule. This rule prevents discussion in Parliament on cases which are active before the courts, including coroners' courts. The aim of the rule is to safeguard the right to a fair trial and fair consideration of events at an inquest. It is also important that Parliament and the courts give mutual recognition to their respective roles and do not interfere in each other's affairs. We have taken advice from the Attorney General on cases which are currently active. It is clear that all the principal events of 7 July and 21 July, and the shooting of Mr Jean Charles de Menezes on 22 July, are sub judice. It follows that there should be no discussion of those events. It is particularly important that nothing should be said in this hearing, either by members of the Committee or the witnesses, which might be deemed prejudicial in any forthcoming criminal proceedings. The House authorities have given guidance to us and to our witnesses on what can and cannot be discussed today; and I will intervene if necessary to ensure that the sub judice rule is not broken. I should add I am sure we will find that this will leave plenty of scope for questions which are in order in today's hearing. Home Secretary, thank you very much for bearing with us while I made that statement. Home Secretary, thank you for joining us this morning; it is the first opportunity Members of Parliament have had to examine where we are after the events of July. Could I start at the beginning, if not just before those events? Just before the bombings the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre decided there was no single terrorist group "with both the current intent and the capability to attack the UK". That assessment proved to be wrong as I am sure you will agree.
Q1 Chairman: Can I ask what assessment you have made about why the intelligence assessment was flawed; what has been done about it; and, perhaps crucially, how long it will be before the intelligence you receive is satisfactory?
Mr Clarke: Certainly. Chairman, could I just make one initial remark in saying how much I appreciate the invitation to come before this Committee. I think the issues around the events on 7 July and 21 July need a very wide public debate and, on my part, I am keen to work with this Committee on facilitating that. I have given evidence on the issues you asked me to do, but I should just say on the issues around the Independent Police Complaints Committee investigation, as I say in paragraph 24 of my evidence to you, I do not intend to say a great deal on that a) for the sub judice reasons you have mentioned but b) because I am very keen indeed not to undermine the independence of the IPCC. I should also say that it is my intention later this week to write to the main opposition spokesman to this Committee with draft legislation on counter-terrorism, which I believe I am coming to give evidence to you on 10 October to discuss. On your particular question, I want to make a general remark about intelligence and then a specific answer. The point about intelligence - and I think this is not anything like well enough understood in the country as a whole - is that intelligence is not knowledge. Intelligence is an effort to try and understand what the threats are that we face in a variety of different areas based on a variety of different techniques, a variety of different sources of information, and then to weigh those assessments and to come to a view. It is not based, as many seem to think, that somehow we know what is out there. We do not know; we try and acquire the best possible knowledge that we can. I would commend to the Committee I think an excellent speech by the Head of the Security Service, Eliza Manningham-Buller, which she gave in Holland recently and which is now on her website, which sets out some of these considerations. One of the bases of seeing where we go is that the aim of the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre assessment, the aim of the overall country threat level, is to quantify the threat as they see it in the current or near term. The assessments are set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre and reflect a judgment on the available intelligence and are therefore not published. They are not intended to be a public alert system. That is one of the misunderstandings which have arisen. The reduction in the threat level, to which you refer in your question which is contained in the quarterly review, reflected their view that an absence of intelligence of a current credible plot and the destruction successfully of two plots in 2004 (both of which I should say are sub judice, so I cannot comment on the specifics of those plots) indicated that the reduction could be made. However, the judgment did still indicate a high level of threat and the possibility of an attack being mounted without warning. It did not suggest the threat was removed, but simply made an assessment that it was lower than had previously been thought. The change was promulgated in a detailed report to security planners which was subsequently leaked to the New York Times and by them to the BBC. Reporting was selective, perhaps understandably, and did not obviously reflect the detailed analysis in the report. I should say that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be conducting an inquiry, I understand, into the intelligence aspects of July's events, and it is likely to cover the classified report we are talking about there. I should make clear that the threat level is separate to the system of alert states which applies to the Government Estate and to critical national infrastructure. Alert states deal with the practical measures which should be put in place to mitigate any risk. While the alert state is heavily influenced by the threat level, it is JTAC which sets the threat level independently and is not responsible for deciding on what mitigating action should be employed. Hence the reduction in threat level was not directly connected to the alert state and was for local planners to determine. There was therefore no significant diminution to specific protective measures. The whole intelligence issue, as you imply in your questions, means we have to analyse very carefully how this works in the future.
Q2 Chairman: Home Secretary, I think the Committee understands the difference between knowledge and intelligence, and you set that out very clearly; but the fact is we did not know that this was in the pipeline. The question is: what measures have been taken? I understand you talked confidentially to the other committee, but what measures are being put in place to improve our intelligence; and when do you think we will get to the situation where you are more confident about the quality of the intelligence advice you are getting?
Mr Clarke: The measures are as follows: firstly, there has been a significant extra resource and, as a result, very large extra recruitment of extra capacity for the security services directly; secondly, we have strengthened our partnerships with overseas intelligence networks to be able better to understand what is happening and raised the level of dialogue in relation to that; thirdly, the actual inquiries into the 7 July and 21 July events have set out a whole series of forensic-based and also telecommunications data based analyses of what the linkages have been in leading to these particular events. At the end of the day, it depends on resource, who we recruit, how we recruit them and our capacity to relate to the communities concerned. Those all have been put in process. I have to say, none of them were new after 7 July. For example, the resource increase had gone in following 9/11 and the number of people of capacity working in these areas was already increasing significantly. That will continue to go ahead in the way I have described.
Q3 Chairman: The IRA campaign may be coming to an end after about 30 years in its current form; is it fair to assume we will face terrorism of the nature we have recently seen for 30 years or so?
Mr Clarke: I would not like to put a time period on it. The fact is that the nihilist terrorist threat that we address here is something that will only be beaten by demonstrating that it cannot succeed in weakening the capacity of ourselves to defend the democratic institutions and structures where we are. I believe that has been already manifested very strongly in our response to these particular events. Unlike the IRA and some other terrorist organisations, where there was a specific political ambition related to the terrorism, I believe we are facing a different kind of threat and, therefore, it is difficult to give the time assessments that you ask for. I do believe we will get to a state of affairs where we have demonstrated that we are simply not going to be shifted from defending our societies. I may say, I think this is important internationally as well as domestically. That is why the European Union Initiatives and the United Nations Security Council Declarations on this matter are so important.
Q4 Chairman: History suggests these things are solved in the longer term and not the shorter term?
Mr Clarke: Quite so; that is definitely the case. You are right to imply, as you do, that it is not something which is here today, gone tomorrow; it is absolutely not. The length of time we are talking about depends both on our political determination to say that this form of seeking to change public life is completely unacceptable; and the extent to which that is shared right across; the types of measures we have in place, but also the type of society and community we build here, that is very important as well.
Q5 Mr Winnick: On 28 February the Prime Minister said he thought there were "several hundred people plotting" a terrorist attack in Britain. In the light of what occurred in July, would you stand by those figures?
Mr Clarke: There are certainly hundreds of individuals who we have been watching very closely and continue to watch extremely closely, and that is what we do. The word "plotting" is an interesting word in that particular context. There are certainly hundreds of people who we believe need to be very closely surveilled because of the threat which they offer.
Q6 Mr Winnick: One of the undoubted points which arose from recent events was the question of any international link between British and foreign terrorists. There was a feeling some two months ago that the foreign link should be minimised. Does that remain your view, in view of certain things which have come to pass - video tapes or what-have-you?
Mr Clarke: I certainly think the foreign link is a very important element to look at. I think there is no doubt there were a whole series of international relationships that were engaged in. The nature of those relationships - the extent to which it was an association, the extent to which it was some kind of command-and-control - is a matter which we do not know the answer to at the moment and that is precisely what we are exploring. I think it is undoubted that there were international links in this. The difficult problem in the question you put to me, Mr Winnick, is to define precisely what the nature of that relationship is, and how those relationships operated.
Q7 Mr Winnick: Would the security services be more of the view that there undoubtedly were foreign links in the attacks which took place in London than, say, two months ago?
Mr Clarke: I understand why you are asking the question and how you are asking the question, but I would not like to put it in the sense of "more or less" over those two months. The international relationships were right on the agenda as an issue for investigation at the moment of 7 July, and they have been part of the investigation all the way through. As you imply, events like the video tape, which you referred to in your question, are being looked at very carefully from that point of view as well. I think throughout there has been a thought that international links might be part of what we are talking about; but the extent of it and the nature of it is something we are very actively investigating. The implication of your question is: has there been a change of opinion over time - for example, promoted by the video tape you are referring to? I suppose marginally; but I would only emphasise the marginality. There has been a slight shift of opinion towards there being international links and weighing the balance of issues being there.
Q8 Mr Winnick: Because of the video tape?
Mr Clarke: No, I would not say particularly because of the video tape. I think the video tape is another factor in the situation. I would not say because of the video tape. I think the nature of how that tape was produced, where it was produced, who produced it, how it was disseminated and how it was put together remains to be fully established. The tape is there, of course, and it has been shown and people have seen it, but the extent to which it was used by others and so on is something that is actively being investigated.
Q9 Mr Winnick: For reasons which the Chairman explained I cannot go further on that particular question. Home Secretary, in considering recruitment to terrorism, what roles do you believe are played by madrassas overseas (particularly the way in which apparently so many seem to inspire terrorism), mosques in Britain and other venues in the United Kingdom?
Mr Clarke: I think it is very important to emphasise that both madrassas overseas and mosques in Britain are, for the main part, the place for entirely legitimate worship, discussion within particular faiths, education and development, and that is the case. I believe there are some madrassas, and occasionally some mosques, where there are people who have the kind of ideological approach which leads to terrorist activity, who are active. The question is to find out where that is actually happening and to address it wherever we can. As we do so - and it is the reason why I want to do it very, very much working with the mainstream Muslim community - I think it is very, very important that we do not caricature all madrassas, all mosques, as places where terrorism is fomented. I think that is absolutely not the case, and the overall majority of madrassas and mosques are places where people are operating in a perfectly legitimate and correct way. The question is to identify where that is not the case.
Q10 Mr Winnick: Most people, Home Secretary, would not question that about mosques in Britain, and prayers in churches, synagogues and temples; but I would imagine they are pretty concerned (and more so, if I may say so, with what you have just said) about some of the madrassas in Pakistan. I am wondering how far the British Government is making strong representation to the Pakistan authorities of some of those madrassas that certainly seem (but would not seem so from your answer, if I may say so) to inspire people to carry out terrorist acts in the West?
Mr Clarke: If I may say so, Mr Winnick, I think you put the question in the correct way. You used the phrase "some of the madrassas" and that is, in my opinion, the right way to address it. What I said in my answer to your earlier question was that I do not think there is an issue in the generality, but there is an issue in the case of some (to use your words) madrassas and mosques. There is no doubt, I think, that that is the case. In terms of discussions with the Pakistanis, there have been very substantial discussions with the Pakistani Government at all levels - operational, political and so on - precisely to work together to identify the places where this is taking place and to take whatever action is appropriate to deal with it. My own view is that there has been a significant increase in the amounts of joint work and joint operation in these matters over recent months, and that is positive and is precisely to identify those places where terrorism is fomented in whatever way.
Q11 Mr Malik: I would like to speak about the central elements of the Government's current approach to combating terrorism and, in particular, whether the Government will proceed with all the proposals that have been set out on 5 August in the 12-point plan by the Prime Minister; and, if so, what the priorities are within that plan?
Mr Clarke: Broadly the answer to your question is, yes, we will. There are a number of priorities, and let me quickly run through them. Firstly, new legislation to deal with counter-terrorism to create new offences in line with the Council of Europe recommendations that came in relation to terrorism; that was pre-figures, in fact before the Election and certainly before July 7. We will be publishing the wording of our proposed offences on that later this week, as I said earlier on, and I anticipate that being a matter for discussion in this Committee and elsewhere in due course when we go through that. Attached to that there are a series of other measures in the legislation (I think relatively non-controversial although of course they may give rise to controversy) about strengthening our capacity in those areas. The second element referred to in the Prime Minister's statement is strengthening our ability to deport those people who are fomenting terrorism in the way I describe. The way I approached that was to make a statement to the House of Commons on 20 July about the need to develop a list of unacceptable behaviours, to commit to publishing such a list in draft form, which I did in August, and then consulting on it with individuals and finalising (I think on 24 August, speaking from memory) the actual list, and then taking action against the people who were abusing our position in relation to that. I have done that in a number of cases; but that leads to the second step, which is the actual removal of an individual concerned to the country concerned where there are, as the Committee well understands, important issues under the European Convention of Human Rights, in particular Article 3, which need to be dealt with. We are approaching that by establishing memoranda of understanding with different countries interested to do that: we have successfully done that with Jordan and we are actively doing it with others to provide the ability to ensure we can make the deportation in the way we wish to. Reinforcing that, the Foreign Office has been adding to what we call our "warnings index", the list of individuals who might seek to come here from other countries to foment terrorism which I would have the power to exclude in those circumstances. Indeed, I have already used that power in some cases. The third area is in relation to the development of Control Orders in relation to British citizens, and British citizens who, by definition, we are not talking about deporting to any country or anything of that kind; and, where they are conducting unacceptable behaviours, using Control Orders to deal with those. I have already approved a Control Order against a British citizen and we are closely examining the possibility of doing that in relation to others. We are also looking at widening the definitions, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, for proscribed organisations, to go through a clearer indication of how we might proscribe organisations in those circumstances. I think the final thing to refer to is the need to speed up the criminal justice system, for example, in relation to extraditions which the Prime Minister referred to in his statement, and we are taking steps in relation to those areas. I have perhaps gone into more detail, Mr Malik, than you would have wanted but the broad answer to the question is, yes.
Q12 Mr Malik: On point 10 of the plan, for example, it speaks about integration and some kind of body perhaps being set up. I also appreciate that some task groups have been set up for the Muslim community to start to tackle some of these issues. Obviously there are resource implications and the Muslim community seems keen to deal with some of these issues. I am wondering, is the Home Office prepared to meet whatever resource implications there are?
Mr Clarke: I never commit to the phrase "whatever resource implications there are" from whomever the request comes! You are quite right, we see this as a very important mainstream part of our work. I was discussing this very issue this morning with ministerial colleagues, because the implications run right across many departments of government to work together. We have a meeting on 22 September at which we will seek to clarify precisely what is the best way to move forward. The implication of the question, that we need to work much more strongly with the Muslim community in the mainstream, is right. That it will require resourcing is also correct. I can commit to providing resourcing, but it is not a blank cheque. I should perhaps just make one other observation. A lot of people focus on the relationship with the Muslim community, and that is a very important part of the debate but, as I know you acknowledge, it is also important to talk about the role of faiths of all types within our society - whether it is Christianity, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, whatever it might be. I think there are very important steps we have to take right across the whole range to ensure that people of all faiths feel they are able to pursue their faith and be respected for their faith in our society. It is not simply a question of relations with the Muslim community, but of relations with faiths generally in society which I am keen to promote.
Q13 Nick Harvey: The Government decided to ban two controversial but currently legal organisations, does this mean that the Government believes that the bombings would have been significantly less likely to occur, or that future bombings are significantly less likely to occur if these organisations are banned?
Mr Clarke: Those organisations are contained in the answer I gave to Mr Malik in terms of looking at the wider bases of proscription. The key answer to your question is I do not believe that there is any particular measure and that is why I made the remark I did about ID cards at the time of the bombings. In relation to your question, I would not say, "If X had been in place these events would not have happened". I do not think there is a magic wand where that could have been achieved. Do I think that a set of measures - whether it is proscribing certain organisations and certain prosecutions, whether it is different anti-terrorist approaches, whether it is ID cards or whatever, these combinations of measures - would make those events less likely? I think they would make those events less likely, but I would not make the particular connection you ask me to between a particular measure and the particular event of 7 July or 21 July.
Q14 Nick Harvey: Were you not specifically warned against banning these two organisations in the Home Office/FCO memo?
Mr Clarke: There is always an issue, and different people have got different views about this, on the balance of advantage between proscribing a given organisation and not doing do. I was responsible as a junior minister for dealing with these issues in the Terrorism Bill 2000 and the list of organisations we proscribed on national security firms at that time had a relationship to each of these organisations. There was an issue about whether it was wise or not to proscribe because of the concerns that could arise. They are not easy judgments; they are not straightforward. In the case of the organisations you are talking about here there is similarly a balance of view as to what is the best way to proceed. The way I have decided to proceed is to ask Parliament to look again at the whole basis upon which we do proscribe organisations and to take decisions in the particular cases on the basis of that consideration.
Q15 Chairman: The Home Office's own paper which you supplied to us, attached to the current Office paper from last year, said in relation to the two organisations which you now want to ban: "We need to guard against focussing on these high profile, vocal and highly visible organisations because there is much concern from a counter-terrorist perspective of those groups which are not formally organised". What changed between the Home Office's view last summer, that you should not focus on these organisations, and your decision now to ban them?
Mr Clarke: As I said, the decision in relation to those will be taken on the basis of the new definition of proscription that we are about. What has changed is the balance of opinion in relation to the events of 7 July and 21 July, and that is a very significant change. I think, Chairman, you would agree (perhaps you would not) that in the debates we have had on terrorism, for example, in this House before the Election there was a set of arguments around the likelihood of a terrorist attack on this country; and some people were very sceptical about the likelihood of a terrorist attack on this country and made that argument publicly. That was not the case of ministers. Ministers said there was a serious risk of a terrorist attack which is why we needed the measures. Of course, we then had the terrorist attack tragically and that does change opinions in relation to all these questions.
Q16 Nick Harvey: Why did the Government break with its approach of consulting the other parties over counter-terrorism measures when the Prime Minister made his announcement on 5 August?
Mr Clarke: I think there was not a break from that approach, but let me just sum up what exactly happened. The Prime Minister had a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition on these matters and I gather there was a set of efforts to communicate with the Leader of the Liberal Democrats as well which went wrong, which I regret - there should not have been the communications failures which there were at that time. I am certainly working on the basis of working with the main parties; in fact I have a meeting later this morning with the spokesman for the Liberal Democrats on these matters to discuss precisely these areas. There was a communications error in the lead-up to 5 August, which I have discussed with some of the politicians concerned, and I regret that is the case. There is no desire on our part to break from a broadly consensual approach. On the contrary, I think one of the things the country as a whole has welcomed throughout this has been, in general, the common approach which all parties have taken on this matter. Of course, everybody will decide their own position in the light of that; nobody can be bound into a particular set of propositions and policies; and all parties have made it clear that the fact they generally wish to work in a consensual way does not commit them to voting for a particular proposition in this House when it comes through, and perfectly understand that. Our desire is to work consensually, and I believe that is also the desire of the other main parties as well.
Q17 Colin Burgon: In your public pronouncements you quite correctly identified the need to balance civil liberties and public safety and have been quite measured in many of the statements you have made. Moving on from that, because it is going to be a big debate, how would you assess the effectiveness of ID cards in combating terrorism?
Mr Clarke: This will be a major debate of course, as you rightly say, Mr Burgon, about which there will be many differences of opinion. I am certain that ID cards both in this country and abroad will have a significant role to play in combating terrorism. The main reason for that is that terrorist organisations work in a way which both needs intelligence to understand what they are doing, but also uses identity theft to address many of its concerns and identity cards will help to deal with that. As I said earlier, I do not believe it is a golden bullet which solves the problem completely but it will help to address it. There are cases under different regimes. For example in Madrid, after the Madrid bombing in a country where the purchaser pay-as-you-go phones can only be done by providing identity, where the identity information was very important to help the Spanish authorities in preventing further atrocities in Madrid. I make the point again: it is not the case that you can say, "If only that was in place then that would have been stopped"; but if you ask me, as you did in the language you were using just now, "Will identity cards help us in addressing the threat that we face here?" I am certain it will.
Q18 Mr Benyon: Home Secretary, what is your assessment of the way in which the emergency services responded to the attacks on 7 July and 21 July? Were there areas, in your view, in which the response could have been better organised? If any, what lessons do you believe can be learned for the future?
Mr Clarke: Firstly, I think the response of the emergency services was absolutely outstanding at both the personal and leadership level. The courage and heroism shown by a number of individuals was extraordinary, and the effectiveness with which these services worked as a whole as inspirational. The Committee may be interested to know that people throughout the world have paid tribute to what we have done by comparison with the overall state of affairs. I feel very positive about what was achieved and how they approached it. That said, I think it is very important to learn lessons from what took place - what was god and what was bad. To that end, the Government is very actively considering, under a Cabinet Committee which I chair, what are the lessons of what happened and where we could improve. There are two or three areas where we do need to look to improve and the first is information to victims, relatives and friends about the situation. It is a massive procedural problem actually: you get literally millions of calls that come in and how do you handle those calls over what is a very short period of time in a way that is effective and operates? We did have some problems right at the early hours of the crisis in handling what needed to be done in the most effective way. I commend the authorities on getting hold of that fairly quickly; and within a day or two we did actually get the system back. I have been praised by many victims' relatives, those who were also in the tube trains or on the bus or who were near but were not actually killed, for the support for victims that is there now. All that said there are improvements which we think we need to carry through. Secondly, we are looking very closely at how the transport decisions are taken, and they are difficult problems - about whether to keep the buses running; what transport to close; what to open and so on - which were taken extremely professionally on 7 July and, to a lesser extent, on 21 July. We need to make sure that in any other potential attack we get this absolutely right. Thirdly, there are important issues of memorials, compensation, coroners' operations, which we need to look at. The overall picture which I want to give to the Committee is of a very strong, literally world-class performance, by our emergency services; but the necessity constantly to say, "How can we improve what we are doing"; and I have just outlined two or three of the areas where we thought we could improve what we are doing and take it forward in a better way.
Q19 Mr Benyon: We are hearing from Sir Ian and the Mayor later, but we would be grateful if you could outline what measures have been taken since 7 July to strengthen security in the capital and elsewhere?
Mr Clarke: The basic operation which has been taken is to get to a state of affairs where what I call "vigilance" as the means of doing it is actually being carried through routinely in all of our transport and other infrastructure. The key answer, to be quite candid, is in the relationship of the whole community together in London, to be able to understand where threats are coming from and how things can operate. We have been very conscious too I need to say of the possibility of attacks elsewhere in the country as well. There have been very strong relationships between the Metropolitan Police and the police leaderships in other parts of the country in order to ensure that we all understand the situation. The protections that we have in place I think are strong. We go back to the point the Chairman and Mr Winnick were raising with me right at the beginning which is, that we do not know what the situation is; we do not know whether there is a particular threat we can deal with, and that remains our central issue. We try and improve our intelligence, but we do not actually have knowledge.
Q20 Mr Benyon: Obviously there are going to be cost implications of any increased security measures. What, in your estimation, has been the cost to public funds of the security measures taken in London since the July attacks? Are the police and the other emergency services adequately resourced to tackle the increased level of threat?
Mr Clarke: There have been very particular costs that have been incurred in relation to that. We have discussed it with the Met and we are discussing in government to what extent we can meet those particular costs. We estimate that the costs before the 1 September incurred by the Metropolitan Police Service in combining the resources diverted from other activities, the opportunity costs and the additional costs - cash costs, for example, support and extra overtime - are of the order of £60 million and we are addressing that in discussion with the Met.
Q21 Mr Benyon: Do you think you will be bringing Supplementary Estimates before the House to cover the increase cost burden?
Mr Clarke: We are discussing precisely how we can deal with that situation. I doubt actually it will need Supplementary Estimates, but I need constitutional advice on whether I am right about that. We certainly acknowledge the thrust of the point you are seeking to make in your questioning, which is that extra costs were incurred by the Met, and by others actually, and it is the obligation of the Government to try and deal with those exceptional costs. Obviously all the emergency services have an element in their budgets for resilience against any particular attack, including this; but the scope of this was very, very great and that is why we need to address this specifically. Some of the issues and the costs incurred can be dealt with by the Met's own reserves; some may need a further advance from government but that is precisely what we are discussing at the moment.
Q22 Gwyn Prosser: Home Secretary, as you know, we are not able to discuss the details of the shooting of Mr Menezes here this morning, but there is a public concern about the background to that incident. Can you tell us under what legal authority armed police officers can use lethal force in this country? In the case of police command, who actually can authorise that form of action?
Mr Clarke: As you say, Mr Prosser, I do not want to comment on the detail of this because of the sub judice position; and also, as I have said, because I do not want to challenge the IPCC's independence into looking into these particular areas. At the level of generality, the answer to your question is that, "The use of lethal force by police officers is subject to the same requirements as for any other use of force. The basis of law in it is the Criminal Law Act 1967 which provides that the police may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances to affect an arrest or to prevent crime. In addition the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 also provides for the use of force when necessary in exercising any of the powers provided under the Act. When circumstances demand it, reasonable force may include lethal force". Obviously a very major decision but that can be the case. "Within the general framework of the law [which I have just described] the Chief Officers must have regard to the Statutory Code of Practice on the police use of fire arms and less lethal weapons. That Code is made under the Police Act of 1997. The Code deals with the provision of a nominated senior officer in each Force to maintain standards and take the lead in relation to operational policy and practice in respect of weapons requiring special authorisation - which is any weapon other than those routinely issued to patrol officers' self defence - and general requirements for authorisation procedures, planning for fire arms incidents and so on". That Code of Practice, which is statutory under the law and was in front of this House, is backed up by a more detailed ACPO manual of guidance which covers the more operational aspects of the use of firearms. You asked about the chain of command: the Statutory Code of Practice points to "the need to appoint an officer of at least Assistant Chief Constable level to be responsible for taking the lead in operational policy and practice in relation to fire arms within the Force. The level at which authorisation can be given may vary in relation to the kind of weapon, the urgency of the situation and so on. Officers responsible for planning operations where the use of force is a possibility should do so to minimise recourse to force. Where weapons have been deployed continuing judgments are needed by all those involved as to whether their actual use is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances". I am sorry to have read out a brief on this, Mr Prosser, but I thought you might ask about the legal basis and I wanted to make sure I put it accurately on the record.
Q23 Gwyn Prosser: Does that answer imply that there has been no change in policy in this regard, or in operational instructions or guidance in this regard?
Mr Clarke: No, it does not. Tactics continue to evolve in response to the threats that we face. An example, which you imply in your question, is how to deal with the threat of suicide bombing for example. I want to make a general point here about this. The tradition of this country (I think rightly) has been that operational policing is the responsibility of Chief Constables and of the police rather than of politicians, and that is for two essential reasons, in my opinion: first, is that I think it would be a very, very bad state of affairs indeed if ministers such as myself were in a position to try and second-guess the operational judgements of Commissioners of Police or Chief Constables in the particular issues that they face. In countries where there is a lack of clarity about that relationship I think that is damaging operationally and I have always defended (and did when I was police minister for the 2001 Election) very strongly the proposition that operational responsibility for policing must lie with the police, including these matters; secondly, I think one of the dilemmas the police have, and we as politicians have as well, is that it is not desirable in some operational circumstances to reveal to public debate what the operational issues are for the way in which policing operational decisions are taken. Of course, the seriousness of the question you have just raised with me, Mr Prosser, the question of lethal polices in those matters, does require public debate. Perhaps I should say that once the IPCC report is concluded I will look at this question, and maybe the Committee might want to look at this question, as to how we proceed in relation to some of these issues. I would be very loathe, even in such consideration following the detailed inquiry the IPCC is carrying through, to get to a state of affairs where the operational responsibility for policing did not remain with the police.
Q24 Gwyn Prosser: Do you not think there must have been a flaw in the system which almost required a particular incident to occur before parliamentarians or even the general public were aware that a new policy or a new operational piece of guidance was in place?
Mr Clarke: I do not accept that, as a matter of fact, no. I am being rather guarded in my wording - the matter is before the IPCC and I am not going to comment on that - but nobody should forget the circumstances in which events took place. What I do think is that the police have a duty to continually update their operational practices in the light of varying threats which arise. I think that is correctly carried out by the police, and it should do so. That is what is being done in this area and I think that is how it should be.
Q25 Gwyn Prosser: Do you think it is fair to describe the present policy as a "shoot to kill" policy? Are you completely comfortable with it?
Mr Clarke: Not at all. I think shoot to kill is not an appropriate phrase or description to use. I do not really like the phrase "shoot to protect". In my answer to you I put "shoot to protect" in quotation mark rather than accepting it. The fact is, the purpose of operations involving firearms is the intention, in appropriate circumstances, to bring an end to an imminent threat to life or serious injury. Tactics are targeted at that and ensuring it is done quickly and with certainty. Where a firearm was actually discharged of course death may result and has resulted absolutely tragically, but that is not the objective. The objective of the policy is not to go around killing people. The objective of the policy is to protect the public against any particular threat of criminality that can arise; and that arises whether you are talking about a terrorist attack, which we were talking about in London, or other circumstances in which the police use arms. The police have no desire to use arms. The police sometimes need to use arms better to protect the public. They are faced with dilemmas of this kind all the time. That is why when people say "shoot to kill" I think that is a quite wrong use of language.
Q26 Mrs Cryer: Home Secretary, I am sure you are aware there is a great deal of public disquiet about the so-called "shoot to kill" policy. You are saying there is not, but if there is a shoot to kill policy like suicide bombers it completely circumvents the criminal justice system. Can I take from what you have said that what happened here in London could have happened in West Yorkshire, which is my area? Is it across the board? Can any police authority look at this sort of situation and rule that it is possible for police officers to use lethal force?
Mr Clarke: Every Chief Constable has the operational responsibility to take the decision - for example in West Yorkshire or any other force - which they think will best protect the people who they have the job of protecting. In taking that decision, the Chief Constable has to have regard to the Statutory Code, which I referred to earlier, and to the ACPO guidance which is established; but the authority does not thereby remove from the Chief Constable to do what he or she thinks is necessary in order to protect the people in his or her area. While I understand completely the points you are making, Mrs Cryer, I think I just need to say in the hypothetical case of a West Yorkshire attack, for the sake of argument, that if there were suicide bombers in West Yorkshire who were genuinely believed to be threatening the lives of dozens or even hundreds of people in a great West Yorkshire city, I think the obligation on the Chief Constable in those circumstances should be to do their very, very best to protect the citizens of West Yorkshire against such an attack. Of course they are highly accountable, Chief Constables, for their decisions in those circumstances, and it is of course possible that terrible things happen - that is a circumstance which can of course arise. In the great balance of things I do think we ought to acknowledge that Chief Constables and the police leadership have hard decisions to take in facing this kind of threat. That is why we are so determined to eliminate this kind of threat. The problem referred to by the Chairman in his question earlier on remains the case - it will be possibly some considerable time before we can say that this kind of threat does not exist.
Q27 Chairman: Was it your job to order the IPCC's involvement in the inquiry and, if so, why apparently did you not order that immediately on learning of the shooting - it was some time before they became involved?
Mr Clarke: It was not my job specifically to order the inquiry, Chairman, because the IPCC has it is own procedures in terms of handling referrals. Again, I anticipated you might ask a question of this kind and, if you do not mind, could I set out the process that exists because I think it is quite important. "The handling of complaints or conduct matters and referral to the IPCC are governed by the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Police Complaints and Misconduct Regulation 2004. Certain categories of complaint or conduct matter are required by statute to be referred to the IPCC. That is a whole series of issues which are required to go to the IPCC. There is also a new provision under the Serious and Organised Crime Act where police forces are required to refer all deaths and serious injury cases to the IPCC, even where there is no complaint". Previous to this order and this provision it was voluntary reference by police forces. "A police force is required by statute to refer a case to the IPCC by the end of the next working day following the incident. Upon referral of a case to the IPCC, the IPC Commission will decide how the case will be handled under the set of conclusions" which for brevity I will not go through again. If the Committee is interested I will be happy to drop a short note on the IPCC procedures rather than repeat it here. The point I want to emphasise is that it is not a matter of discretion whether these things are referred to the IPCC. The reason why I have been so angry over the summer with the various speculations that have gone on around this inquiry is that (as you will know, Chairman, from your own personal experience) the determination to struggle to establish an Independent Police Complaints Commission was not straight forward and was not clear. Here with this massive test for the IPCC, and for everyone else, I think it is critically important the IPCC is entitled to conduct its inquiry in a balanced way and draw its conclusions and publish its conclusions in a balanced way and for everybody, including the Committee and myself, then to look at the conclusions.
Q28 Mrs Dean: Home Secretary, on 24 August you announced changes to broaden the use of exclusion and deportation powers, with a new list of "unacceptable behaviours". What gaps in your existing powers are these changes intended to fill? How do you respond to those who argue that these powers are too sweeping, particularly given the very broad definition of "terrorism" in the Terrorism Act 2000?
Mr Clarke: Essentially the Home Secretary has always had the power to exclude people from this country on the basis of conduct which would not be conducive to the public good. It is a power which has been exercised in certain circumstances. It can exist, for example, in relation to national security issues; it can exist, for example, in relation to criminality. It has not traditionally been used, however, in cases of unacceptable behaviours of the types which I described. That is why I said to the House of Commons in my statement on 20 July that I believed, despite the fact that that power had not been used in that way because of concerns about free speech and so on, I now intended to consult on how to use it. The fundamental reason for that change was that while my predecessors had been of the view that the risk to free speech was greater than the security that could be offered, I felt that the events of 7 July and, as it turned out, 21 July (I did not know that when I made the statement to the House) led to a state of affairs where we ought to define that more widely. I was, however, acutely aware that these areas were extremely controversial and difficult to resolve. I said although I wanted to move on a rapid basis I would produce a draft list of unacceptable behaviours for consultation over a very short consultative period, only two weeks in August. I did do that; I did consult for that period, including with people from a number of communities, including the Muslim community. I took account of a number of representations that were made and changed the draft list in light of those representations to try and tighten it to try and deal with some of the concerns people might have had; and thereby published the list on 24 August. In answer to the concern which you rightly reflect - and saying people raised the question: is this too far? - I fundamentally think it is not too far. If there are people, who remember are not necessarily entitled to be in this country, who are abusing this country in order to be able to prosecute terrorism in any way, I think it is perfectly reasonable for me to say that I will use my powers to prevent these people being in this country, and that is what that list seeks to do.
Q29 Mrs Dean: Is there a danger that people who do not pose a threat to the UK but simply voice dissent about oppressive regimes overseas could be caught by the new provisions?
Mr Clarke: I do not think so. Firstly, the guidance is to me, the Home Secretary of the day, as to the circumstances in which I would use these powers; so there is always the decision of the Home Secretary to take account of the precise circumstances in which it is made. Secondly, I think that the Code of Unacceptable Behaviours, which I have set out, does really talk about the ideology and the threat to the UK which is implicit in that ideology of people in those circumstances. I know the argument you have just reflected is made by some, but I do not actually accept it. I do not think it is a threat to free speech about making changes in countries throughout the world.
Q30 Mrs Dean: Do you consider it right in principle that such changes to powers should be introduced without formal consideration or approval in Parliament?
Mr Clarke: I do think it is right in principle in these cases because we faced a very particular set of circumstances. I think what was right in principle, if I can put it like this, was that I said to Parliament I was going to do this, which I did in a statement on 20 July. I set out a procedure which I was going to follow. I think I followed that procedure and operated quite directly through that. There was no change in the law proposed in what I was doing. There was a change in the way I intended to conduct my responsibilities under the law. I informed Parliament of it and then very publicly publicised precisely what I was going to do. I feel absolutely that I went through the correct procedures. Of course, if this Committee or any others wanted to make the comment that I had done it wrongly in a certain respect, or this was not right, I would listen to those concerns; but I would robustly defend that I did it in the right way and that the conclusion was right.
Q31 Mrs Dean: The focus of the Government's concern is on foreign radicals. Does this reflect intelligence advice that the chance of bombings in Britain would be greatly reduced if they were not here? If so, does the Government accept any responsibility for allowing them to operate in this country for so long?
Mr Clarke: It does not reflect specific security service advice in relation to the way you put the question. Do I think it would have been a good idea to have done this a lot earlier in any respect? I have to say that this balance of the judgment between free speech, individual liberty and national security is a difficult one. I make no criticism of either myself in the past or of my predecessors in saying that it was very important to protect absolutely, as it were, the free speech of certain individuals however offensive and terrible what they were saying was. I do think that the events of 7 July, with the implication that there are individuals ready to conduct these kinds of acts who had been subject to the kind of influences we are describing, put a whole new angle on the whole of this debate. I think I would have been blinkered as Home Secretary had I not faced up to that new reality and made the proposals which I have.
Q32 Chairman: Home Secretary, while there were sceptics about the threat you (I know because you said so in the House) were convinced that something like the bombings would happen at some time. It is a little difficult to understand the argument that says we had to wait until so many people were killed before we took this action if you, the Prime Minister and others, were convinced that this sort of action was going to be inevitable. Could you expand a bit more on your answer?
Mr Clarke: With respect, I think it is a slight caricature of my argument to say that I was suggesting let us wait for a disaster and then we can do something. I do not think that is entirely what I was suggesting. What I was saying was that the events of 7 July illuminated a certain set of issues about the kind of threat that we were under and the kinds of people who might bring those threats to pass. They heightened the question certainly in my mind, but very much more widely, as to what it was that brought these individuals to behave in these ways. It seemed incumbent on me to try and answer that question and to address it to the extent that we could. It is always possible to say, "We could have done it differently in the past in respect of A, B or C", and that is always the case; but, as I have tried to indicate in previous answers to the Committee, I do not believe there is any particular step where I could say, "If we'd only had that in place that would have prevented the 7 July". I do believe that an overall strongly protective framework is necessary and that is what I have set about trying to achieve.
Q33 Mr Winnick: Previous governments as well as this one, Home Secretary, have been told by foreign governments, including in the Arab countries, Egypt, for example, that a number of terrorists as they see it have come to Britain over the years and that the UK has become almost a safe haven for such people. There is a general feeling that, like with the previous government, serious warnings of such a kind were not accepted by the government. What would be your response to that?
Mr Clarke: I do not essentially accept that. I think for some considerable time, some years anyway, there has been a very determined effort to remove the idea that the UK was a particularly positive place for people to live in those circumstances. I know those allegations continue to be made by some but I do not think they are sustainable. That said, a particular concern of mine, however, Mr Winnick, has been the speed with which some extradition issues have arisen and I think there is a need to speed up our expedition processes which we prefigured in the 2003 legislation on that matter and we are now dealing with them much more effectively. If you ask some of the governments, and I know you are very familiar with their approaches, they will say that a part of their concern that you are reflecting in your question was that we were not extraditing as quickly as possible individuals that we needed to in those circumstances and I hope that we are addressing that very actively at the moment. The only other thing that I say in relation to this is that it is very important to put the relationship with such governments onto a much stronger footing, which is why the memoranda of understanding which I have referred to are so important. Those people who argue that such memoranda of understanding are not worth the paper they are written on I think are guilty of what I have in writing called some kind of latter-day colonialism in the way in which they approach these governments, and I think we are entitled to say that we are determined to work together with the governments of these countries to try and sort these problems out.
Q34 Mr Winnick: Some would say it is rather late in the day. Do you accept any criticism for that?
Mr Clarke: Not on the "late in the day" point, no.
Q35 Nick Harvey: Following that point, the government says it may seek changes in the law to reduce the chances of successful appeal against deportation to countries that have practised torture. How workable is that? Section 3 of the European Convention would still apply. Sweden recently fell foul of it when it sent two asylum seekers back to Egypt and they were tortured. The UN Special Rapporteur points out that if we are having to seek these sorts of assurances it shows that we perceive a risk. How much faith can we put in assurances from countries which have had a history of practising torture?
Mr Clarke: First, I completely reject the fundamental premise of your question. If you take the Swedish case, which I discussed with the Swedish Minister of Justice last Friday in Newcastle, the fact in that particular case, the one which there has been wide publicity for, is first that there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that there was abuse of the individual concerned and certainly the Swedish and Egyptian governments do not accept that. It is true that allegations of abuse were made by relatives of the individual concerned at the early period during which this was taking place. Secondly, and more importantly, there was not in place a memorandum of understanding between the government of Sweden and the government of Egypt on these cases. There were various assurances that were given but they were not at the level of an intergovernmental agreement. The fact is that intergovernmental agreements should be taken seriously and I hope the courts will do just that. As far as the UN is concerned we are in correspondence with the UN Special Envoy in these areas and will continue to be, but he points out in his correspondence that these countries are signatories of the UN's own convention against torture and that that is something that should hang in the balance. In fact, he makes the argument (which I think is not a consistent argument) that we do not need the memorandum of understanding because they have already signed the UN convention against torture which I do not myself think is a sequitur in the argument which is intellectually respectable, although I will, of course, discuss this with the United Nations, but I know that the UN Security Council later this week (I hope sponsored by all the permanent five members) will agree an anti-terrorist resolution at the United Nations level. That is good news. Our government has been very actively promoting that and the Prime Minister will be addressing it later this week in New York and that is the right way to proceed. I do not fundamentally accept the point. The issue under the European Convention is whether there is a real risk to an individual concerned in being returned to a country where he or she might be subjected to torture or abuse. That is a real issue. The courts have to look at it in the balance. My argument is that if there is a memorandum of understanding agreed between governments about individual cases that should be taken seriously by the courts, and I believe the courts will take that seriously.
Q36 Nick Harvey: Neither the Swedish or Egyptian governments have been in any hurry to acknowledge what had happened there but, unfortunately, as you say, allegations continue. What were you getting at when you were talking to your counterparts in Newcastle last week when you said that we were coming under increasing pressure to withdraw from the ECHR? What are the changes you want to see to the ECHR and is there any sense that actually the problem is that British judges are interpreting it differently from their European counterparts?
Mr Clarke: I do not think that is the case. The pressure is a matter of simple observation. If you look at the editorial columns of certain newspapers and the statements made by certain politicians, there is a pressure to withdraw in these circumstances. It is a pressure I reject. I think the European Convention on Human Rights is a very important guarantor of human rights and has also been a very important developer and extender of human rights since its signature in 1948. What I do believe, however, is that it is very important that in its operation, both at the British level and at the European level, the human rights of individuals who are being charged with particular offences are considered side by side with the human rights of those who have been blown up in tube trains and so on. I think most judges accept that and I certainly do not believe that British judges have been taking eccentric decisions in relation to this. I think British judges have been taking perfectly correct decisions as far as their interpretation is concerned. That is not to say I agree with all the decisions taken by British judges but I do not imply any kind of inadequate judicial standard for British judges as compared to anybody else.
Q37 Nick Harvey: You are not seeking changes to the convention?
Mr Clarke: No, I am not seeking changes to the convention. What I am arguing for, and I argued this in a speech to the European Parliament last week and also in Strasbourg and in Newcastle and Gateshead, is encouraging the judiciary, the European court and all agencies to ensure that the decisions that are taken take full account of the overall position within the legal structure, and I think that is the right way for us to proceed.
Q38 Nick Harvey: Do you intend that any of the people who were detained in Belmarsh prison and have subsequently been subject to control orders will be deported under the new arrangements and, if so, how does that square with your earlier assurance, for example, in the Commons in February when you said that the control order regime at a level of less than the deprivation of liberty would be sufficient to secure those people, control them and prevent them from engaging in terrorist acts?
Mr Clarke: The control orders under which those individuals were did have the effect that I described of preventing them from committing or engaging in particular terrorist acts. There are issues about the operation of the control order regime which Lord Carlile will report on at the end of January next year and I have reported to Parliament at regular intervals about that and will continue to do so. The only issue that arises, however, is whether their presence in this country is conducive to the public good. In my opinion it is not conducive to the public good and that is why I took the decision I did in terms of proposing their deportation, but then the issue arises as to precisely how that will operate in the way that we have previously been discussing.
Q39 Chairman: Home Secretary, we are grateful to you for providing to us the paper from Sir Andrew Turnbull that went to the Cabinet about relations with the Muslim community, although it did happen to be leaked to The Observer before a committee of the House of Commons could receive this unrestricted paper. Earlier this year this committee had an inquiry into terrorism and community relations. The evidence that your department submitted was very different in tone from the private advice that the Home Office and the Foreign Office gave to the Cabinet and that private advice talked about factors which may attract some to extremism, including anger, alienation and activism. Can I ask why there was such a difference between the public Home Office analysis of the problems and issues arising in the Muslim community and what was being said by the Home Office to the Cabinet?
Mr Clarke: Because there are differences in assessment at different times and in different circumstances. I do not think that is an unreasonable thing to say. My view, as I said in answer to Mr Malik earlier on, is that we have to work a lot harder as the Home Office on developing our relations with the Muslim community and understanding and working better together and that in my opinion is a course of action that we should follow. There is a whole series of fora for having the discussion which you are quoting from the two different documents. I do not see any inconsistency in the way that you suggest but maybe I am missing the point that you are trying to put to me.
Q40 Chairman: My point, Home Secretary, is that the Home Office was saying, at least within government in 2004, that there were problems of anger, alienation and activism as possible routes to extremism within the Muslim community. The public face of the Home Office appears to have been, including a response to this committee, a much more complacent assessment of the nature of the problem. You say that it is different times, different circumstances. I am unclear as to why the government appears to have failed to act on its own internal assessment of the problem over a year ago and is very belatedly attempting to engage in a serious way with the Muslim community.
Mr Clarke: I do not really accept the truth of your criticism, Mr Denham. I do not think we have failed to act on this question. I think we have been very keen to act on the questions because of the seriousness of them in the way that you correctly record. Where I do think we are subject to criticism is not our intent in the matter but whether we have found the right way to do it and to do it in the most effective way in order to have that engagement. You yourself in various capacities have wrestled with those problems as well, as to how to make it operate. I think that the criticism to be made of us (if there is one) is that we have not been as effective as we should have been or could have been in engaging these issues more widely, but the implication that there is a lack of intent or seriousness or that there is complacency about it I simply do not accept.
Q41 Mrs Cryer: During the period since 7 July both the Prime Minister and yourself have been having meetings both nationally and regionally. There was an meeting in Bradford on 23 August with Paul Goggins. It was excellent, it was lively, lots of ideas came forward. I was there along with other local MPs. My concern is what will happen to the information and views expressed at these regional meetings. Will they be fed into government thinking and policy?
Mr Clarke: Absolutely they will. I have spoken to Paul Goggins about that particular meeting but also about some others he and Hazel Blears have been doing and senior officials in the Home Office have been attending those meetings as well. The purpose of that is precisely to try and locate ourselves correctly as to the policies that we take forward. On 22 September we will seek to see how we can involve them in that way, but certainly in terms of the meeting in Bradford I can give an absolute assurance that the views expressed there will be very much taken into account and hopefully will inform what we need to do. The overall effect of these meetings, Mrs Cryer, has been to strengthen my view and that of my ministerial colleagues in the Home Office that there is a real desire to engage in this process and have a proper debate and discussion and to take it forward in the Muslim community and elsewhere, and that is what we will try and respond to.
Q42 Chairman: Home Secretary, I think you have accepted that some of this work has begun much later than it might have done but is now under way. Is there any truth in the suggestion that there is a tension in government between fighting what could be described as the evil ideology which leads directly to terrorism and engaging in the broader issues of concern which may lead to anger or alienation amongst young Muslims in particular and that the government has focused perhaps too much on the former and not enough on the broader issues?
Mr Clarke: I do not think there is a tension in government on this issue at all, I have to tell you; I do not think that is the case. I am just thinking of my colleagues in government and whether any of them have expressed different orientations. I do not think so. I think there are three issues, if I can put it like this. The first is, how can we strengthen the role of faiths in our society? One of the first meetings I sought immediately after 7 July took place on 7 July was with the leaders of a wide range of different faith communities. I think that is very important. When I was Secretary of State for Education I thought it was important in terms of the non-statutory curriculum on religious education. I think that is a key area. I suppose I am not convinced that everybody gives the same priority as I would to that overall faith-based approach that we need to promote. The second element is the work that you described as stronger work with the Muslim community as a whole, whether we have been late to it or not (and I do not actually accept the point), and the fact is that we have to develop and strengthen our work in relation to that and we have to do it in a variety of ways and the kinds of meetings that Mrs Cryer was referring to in Bradford are means of trying to take that forward. Then there is a third element which is dealing with that element you describe which seeks to promote this kind of terrorism which is completely unacceptable but I do not see any cross-government tensions on that at all.
Chairman: Thank you, Home Secretary. We will have to leave it at that point. Thank you very much indeed for your answers this morning. The background to these issues, of course, is an enormously serious set of events and the committee is grateful for your answers this morning. We will, I know, be having you back in October to look in detail at the proposed new legislation but thank you very much indeed.
Witnesses: Sir Ian Blair, QPM, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and Mr Andy Hayman, QPM, Assistant Commissioner on Specialist Operations, Metropolitan Police, examined.
Chairman: Sir Ian and Mr Hayman, thank you very much for coming this morning. I know you have had the opportunity of listening to the Home Secretary.
Q43 Mr Clappison: Commissioner, you have been sitting very patiently through the Home Secretary's evidence and you have heard his assessment of the terrorist threat. Is there anything you would like to add to what has been said?
Sir Ian Blair: No. In so far as the Home Secretary touched on areas that are my responsibility I am entirely in agreement with his view of that threat.
Q44 Mr Clappison: Looking at the messages which have been given out in recent times and taking into account what the Home Secretary told us, that intelligence is not knowledge, you will recollect that very shortly before the attacks which took place in July you made certain comments on the radio, which were no doubt well justified, about the excellence of our counter-terrorism forces and the high standards in the Metropolitan Police, but do you now, in the light of what has taken place, have any reflections on the message which was sent out?
Sir Ian Blair: No. One is always going to be caught by a pre-recorded interview from the day before which is then overtaken by events. I do not resile at all from what I said about the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service's counter-terrorist capacity had been described as the envy of the policing world because that counter-terrorist capacity is in three stages: emergency response, investigation and consequence management, and in all three of those I think it has been manifest since 7 July and on 7 and 21 July that that response was given. The issue has always been around whether or not we were able with our partners in other agencies to prevent all possible attacks. I remember Mr Magee, the bomber at Brighton, who said, "We only have to be lucky once. You have to be lucky all the time". It is a very difficult process.
Q45 Mr Clappison: Do you share the government's focus on foreign radicals and does your deployment of officers reflect this priority or have you put greater effort into British-born terrorism?
Sir Ian Blair: I take the same response - and I shall be guided by anything that Mr Hayman wants to say - in the sense that we do both. We absolutely have to do both. The events of 7 July appear to be involving groups who are largely British-born. The events on 21 July were by people who were also British brought up but from different backgrounds. On the other hand we are concerned about the influence of al-Quaeda and its associates, and that, of course, takes us abroad. Both are absolutely vital. We cannot concentrate on one to the exclusion of the other.
Q46 Chairman: I should have given you the opportunity to introduce yourselves. Sir Ian is familiar to us, both in this role and in his previous one, but perhaps you would like to introduce yourself, Mr Hayman.
Mr Hayman: Thank you very much, Chairman. I am Andy Hayman, the Assistant Commissioner with responsibility for specialist operations, which includes counter-terrorism. The point I would like to add is that it would be very unsafe to make any distinction based on any factor at all. From an investigative point of view and also from a preventative perspective one needs to have a very open mind and be led by the intelligence or the evidence. If you closed any of those options down you would get a very narrow perspective and my argument would be that that is very unsafe.
Q47 Mr Browne: Sir Ian, we have had approximately two months now since the attacks in July. The committee would be interested to hear you reflect upon what lessons have been learned since the attacks, what went well in terms of the response of the police and the emergency services, what could have gone better and whether there are any failings in liaison between the police and the other emergency services in the immediate aftermath and in the weeks after the bombs.
Sir Ian Blair: In terms of the 7 and 21 July I think that the initial response, as I said earlier and as the Home Secretary said, was excellent. It was a Team London event and I think it showed the clear value of rehearsal, of preparation, of co-ordination. That worked in exactly the way we hoped it could have worked. There was huge dedication by people from all sorts of organisations and I think we should be proud of that. In terms of community engagement, which is another side of this, the lessons that have been learned from the Lawrence inquiry about the importance of independent advice came straight into operation. We had advisers with us on the afternoon of the 7th about how we were going to engage with the various communities of London. Andy will speak better than I can about the investigation but I would describe it as fast-moving, innovative and clearly effective both in terms of the 7th and the 21st. What did we learn that we could do better? I echo the Home Secretary's answer about transport. That was a difficult issue. When you have got the largest crime scene in English criminal history which also happens to be part of your transport infrastructure that produces some grave difficulties. We need a new response to the casualty bureau. In the first hour we received 44,000 phone calls. There is no system that anybody knows anywhere that can deal with that number of inquiries and therefore I think there was, and I sympathise with it immensely, agony for so many families, not only those who did end up having victims involved but those that did not even know, and that is very difficult. Managing 24-hour rolling news produces some very difficult effects for all of us. It is something we are going to have to learn with. We have reviewed our operation and we have some changes that we will probably make in some of the command structures and so on but they are not of a significance that will be of particular interest to this committee unless you wish to go there. There are some processes we already have in train in terms of how we thought we might reorganise some of our capacity and you have seen an announcement about that in relation to the Counter-Terrorism Branch and its amalgamation with Special Branch functions. That was already in train but our understanding of what happened during July made that a clearer necessity.
Mr Hayman: On this particular question I have some points that might give an impression of the scale of what was being faced as a challenge. I often reflect on what we were doing during July. Were we investigating 54 murders? Were we conducting a manhunt? Were we trying to reassure the public? Were we trying to identify and arrest and deal with any associations that may have been linked to the crimes? Were we trying to prevent further attacks? Actually, we were doing all of those in a very fast-moving operation. Some of the statistics which paint quite a rich picture of what not only the Police Service but also the intelligence services and the emergency services were having to face include over 38,000 exhibits which have taken up two warehouses. When you are looking at preparation for court a little mistake along the line there would be fatal for a successful prosecution. You will be aware of some of the footage that was paraded as part of the investigation to try and identify people, the extensive use of CCTV. Eighty thousand videos have been seized and people are viewing those to try and identify the images. What might have been irrelevant on first viewing becomes relevant when they pick up something down the line. There are over 1,400 fingerprints and over 160 crime scenes. There is a lot of learning in there which needs to be extracted and we do not want to lose the opportunity to do that and the points that Sir Ian has made there I think summarise the strategic perspective and we could lace that with the practical application of that.
Q48 Mr Browne: In summary the systems worked. Were there to be another bombing you would feel confident that the lessons have been learned and the response to that would be similar to the response on this occasion? There was not a glaring hole in your operation which you feel could be corrected?
Sir Ian Blair: No. I can state quite categorically that there was no glaring hole. The operation went exactly as we had rehearsed and planned it.
Q49 Mr Browne: Mr Hayman listed a whole series of different aspects of the police work on 7 July. Which of those would you say has been given the greatest immediate priority? For example, you mentioned managing 24-hour rolling news, which is obviously a consideration but many people would put it further down the list than the other items mentioned. Is there a hierarchy of priorities when you are dealing with events of this magnitude?
Sir Ian Blair: The greatest position is the protection of the public from further attack. That is what we were after: find the bombers, find those responsible. When I mentioned 24-hour rolling news it is just because that becomes a factor, particularly when we find scenes of crime and find ourselves in a position where the press are announcing where the scenes of crime are as we are arriving there to control them. It is a difficult issue. When we had officers deployed in nuclear and biological suits suddenly we were into a press position which could have led to fears of evacuation and so on. It is a less important issue but it remains an issue. It has to be handled.
Q50 Mr Browne: Do you think the press coverage is unhelpful? Does it hinder your ability to function effectively when such a large scale event has taken place and events are unfolding so quickly?
Sir Ian Blair: I think it is almost pointless to describe it as helpful or unhelpful. It just is. It is part of the environment in which we are operating.
Q51 Mr Browne: You have announced an increase of, I believe, 33% of officers working on counter-terrorism as part of the reorganisation of the police. That is clearly going to involve a significant increase in funding. I was concerned when I was listening to the Home Secretary and he said that there were discussions taking place in government "as to what extent we can meet the extra costs" were the exact words he used, I believe, in terms of responding to terrorism and policing increases in budget. "To what extent" I do not think would reassure most people. I think most people would wish to see that cost met in full and I personally would much rather the billions of pounds being spent on ID cards and testing the irises of every person in the country were spent on exactly the sort of front-line activities you describe. Are you confident that you are getting the money you need in order to function as efficiently as possible if any further terrorist events take place?
Sir Ian Blair: I think it is quite important that the Commissioner does not negotiate with the Home Secretary even in front of the select committee about how much money the Metropolitan Police needs. There are two conversations going on. Conversation one is about repayment for the monies that are already being spent by the Metropolitan Police. This is the first time in living memory that the Metropolitan Police has declared something called "mutual aid", which means that we are paying hundreds of officers from other forces to work with us. That means you have to pick up that national cost as well. The Home Secretary explained what that amount of money was and we are in negotiations. That is one discussion.
Q52 Chairman: And that is an agreed figure, is it, the £60 million?
Sir Ian Blair: Yes. It is £30 million actual costs and £30 million opportunity costs taken together, in all £60 million. Then there is a discussion about what is the future resourcing of the Metropolitan Police Service, which is the national counter-terrorism police force. What we have seen here is an extension of the level of risk management and investigation we have to carry out. We have got a crime scene that extends to Leeds, to Aylesbury, to Birmingham. That is a very significant development.
Q53 Mr Browne: Is there any area of activity that you would like to be undertaking but are feeling impeded from doing so because of financial costs?
Sir Ian Blair: No, there is not in that sense but we are clearly under strain. To deal with an investigation on the scale which Andy Hayman has just mentioned it means that some other investigations are not being progressed at the same speed. Of course, that is what you pay us for, to prioritise between the different processes. What we are quite determined to do is not to lose our eye on policing in the communities in order to do this.
Q54 Mr Benyon: Do you think before 7 July enough lessons had been learned from incidents on the Paris Metro, in Tokyo, even our own underground system, on the specifics of policing an underground system, and do you believe that they worked in response to this?
Sir Ian Blair: Yes, I do, with one major caveat, which is clearly in the public domain. There had been discussions, which I think the Chairman will remember because they go back that far, about the use of radio systems on the underground. This goes as far as back as the Fenton Report into the King's Cross fire which required the operators, in whichever public or private sense they were at that stage, to provide a radio system to British Transport Police. Unfortunately, that does not apply to the Metropolitan Police and there are ongoing discussions which are made more difficult by private finance initiative agreements because of the changes that would be required. I do not think that on the days of the 21st and the 7th that made much difference to us but, clearly, as events then transpired, other considerations may come into account.
Q55 Chairman: Can I clarify one point as you mentioned places outside London like Aylesbury? As I understand it you announced last week the merger of your own counter-terrorism unit with the Metropolitan Police Special Branch. Are there any plans in the pipeline to reorganise the Special Branches which are attached to all the other 42 police forces in England and Wales and even those in Scotland?
Sir Ian Blair: That will be a matter for discussion. What is a very important point to make is that we are not abolishing the functions of Special Branch. It is just that, because we have such a significant counter-terrorist operation which does not exist in any other force, then having a large Special Branch separate from that seemed to us to be inappropriate in the current situation.
Q56 Chairman: But you effectively provide an effective counter-terrorist capacity for the country as a whole?
Sir Ian Blair: Yes, not just for London.
Q57 Chairman: Does it not follow that if you see a need to bring that together with Special Branch in London there does need to be some rationalisation of Special Branches, which are sometimes very small indeed, in some rural police forces which may still turn out to be of interest?
Mr Hayman: You can be reassured that that work has already started some 12 or 18 months ago. There is a big investment of assets across the country to bolster up the regional capability around Special Branch and that will link into the intelligence services which are doing similar work. The aspiration is greater capability regionally into which everyone can then connect. The point that is made there, about not losing sight of the functionality that can still be identified of being a national footprint or in London, is very strong. We are just changing what we call that outfit but they can still connect with the rest of the country. In summary, the feeling, not only professionally but also from the planning we have done along with the national ACPO responsible lead for that, who is the Chief Constable from Sussex, Ken Jones, is that it will be a strengthened position rather than a diluted one.
Q58 Nick Harvey: Do you accept that, as the crime statistics appear to indicate, the police concentration on terrorism in the weeks following 7 July led to a major increase in other crimes, particularly street crime? Would it be fair to say that for some weeks the outer London boroughs were particularly affected by this, because other police had to come in and help with what you were doing?
Sir Ian Blair: There was some but relatively limited displacement. There have been a number of reports that we really could not source, in fact. There was a significant fall in crime, as I think everybody would expect, on the Thursday and the Friday immediately after the bombings, but then it rose back to fairly normal levels. There was a lower than expected level of crime around some of the transport hubs and that is exactly what you would expect because there were lots of police officers there and there was an increase to some degree in the outer boroughs but, actually, the logic of that is that that is what you would expect. If you did not have that then it would be fairly concerning because it would mean that numbers of police officers would not affect crimes in public places. Well, they do, so to some degree it is quod est demonstrandum, is it not?
Q59 Mr Herbert: As you know, we are not able to discuss the details of the shooting of Mr Menezes but there is great public concern about the policy which we would like to discuss. Can I ask you when the new policy on the use of lethal force in relation to potential suicide bombers came into force and with which of the various bodies that you are accountable to was that policy discussed, for instance, the Mayor, the police authority and the Home Office?
Sir Ian Blair: Can I just say one thing before addressing that? I am aware that members of the Menezes family are in the room and it is the first time that I have been in the room with them. Through you I think it is important that once again I apologise for the death of Mr Menezes. I am - the Metropolitan Police are - extremely sorry for that death. We offer our condolences and we are absolutely determined, with help from many other sources, to learn from the events that took place. It is also important with the IPCC representatives here to make clear that, while I am prepared to discuss the policy and must discuss that policy, that does not mean that that policy was necessarily or was not necessarily connected to the death of Mr Menezes. In terms of what you asked, the policy began to be developed, of course, after 9/11. It was finally agreed nationally by the Association of Chief Police Officers in January 2003. Throughout the process of its production Home Office officials, the CPS, the Treasury, councils, independent advisers were aware of the policy, and in fact the Metropolitan Police Authority (I am not sure about the Mayor; he will have to answer for that himself when you come to his evidence) were briefed on this matter in March 2002. There are a couple of significant issues here. It was a development of existing law. It is not a new set of laws and perhaps we can explore that in a moment. While this policy is a very difficult issue for the general public, for ourselves, for our officers, I have, I think, described it accurately as the least worst option. I think it would be a much worse position for a commissioner to appear in front of the Home Affairs Committee to say that on 7 July and 21 July the Metropolitan Police and other services had no policy and no capability to deal with suicide bombers on the loose.
Q60 Mr Herbert: Can I ask to what extent the policy was publicised? You have explained the various bodies with whom you consulted but did the Met make any statement about the fact that there was what is after all a very significant new policy in force post-9/11, and indeed it may not have been helpful to do so?
Sir Ian Blair: I think we have to go back to pre-22 July and post-22 July. The Metropolitan Police Service, along with other services, is a broadly unarmed service. However, it has to have the capacity to use lethal force and there are a significant number of operations that require very specialist approaches. Let us take, for instance, the entry to strongholds, and you saw some of that on 28 July. Let us have a look at live kidnaps in progress or the use of firearms in public order scenarios, as the PSNI have found the last two or three nights. Those lethal options have been developed and discussed with officials. It has never been thought appropriate to discuss them in public. I actually think we have passed that point. I think a watershed has been passed and now we have to find a process for debating these issues without necessarily revealing the absolute detail of the tactics which would, of course, be extremely unhelpful. I would say though, just to deal with the law, that this is still based, as the Home Secretary said, on section 3 of the Criminal Law Act, the use of reasonable force, which has to be "proportionate and necessary" to the threat. There is no question that a suicide bomber, a deadly and determined bomber who is intent on murdering many other people, is perhaps the highest level of threat that we can face and we must have an option to deal with it.
Q61 Mr Herbert: Sir Ian, you are mounting a robust defence of the policy. Does that suggest that it is not under review?
Sir Ian Blair: We reviewed it immediately post-22 July. We made a small number of administrative changes but the essential thrust of the tactic remains the same. That is now being reviewed by other colleagues in ACPO and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, I think, has been invited by the Home Secretary to make sure that from his perspective we are in the right position. I am just repeating our position: I do not know what we do with a situation in which somebody is suspected to be about to commit the kind of atrocity that took place on 7 July. Had we seen the person who was getting onto that bus with that bomb, what were we going to do? What were the officers going to do? If they did not act 13 people died on that bus.
Q62 Mr Herbert: Do you not think that a review should await the outcome of the IPCC inquiry?
Sir Ian Blair: We discussed it with the IPCC. We have done a fairly quick review but I do not think I would want to be sitting here in front of you saying, "We have not launched it and we are not going to look at it until after December when the IPCC reports". It was done with the consent and co-operation of the IPCC.
Q63 Mr Herbert: Can I ask why you initially opposed the establishment of the IPCC inquiry in relation to Mr Menezes' shooting?
Sir Ian Blair: I did not oppose the establishment of the IPCC. In my view, and I stand to be judged on this, on that morning the Metropolitan Police was facing unique circumstances, not only in Britain but probably in the western world, which were of at least four apparent suicide bombers with the intent of causing death and destruction who were on the list and therefore could strike again. A man who was shot dead by police was, from all the information we had at that stage, apparently one of them. There were two issues that needed to be addressed and addressed incredibly quickly. The first was, had this man been a member of the suicide bombing team his body and where he had come from would have been part of the overall counter-terrorism crime investigation and it was crucial with the manhunt that we currently had under way that Andy Hayman's team had priority over that death. Secondly, there is concern over the duty of the IPCC, which I entirely respect, to have the maximum disclosure to the families in these cases when some of the information relates to secret intelligence. I therefore rang the Chairman of the IPCC. I said to him that these were the issues with which I was grappling; therefore, at this stage I was not going to agree to the IPCC entering the scene and I was going to write to the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office and indeed copy that letter to him and to the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority to ask for guidance as to what it was we should do in these circumstances. It was a completely unique set of circumstances. There has been an allegation of cover-up. My view, which I think is fairly public, is that you do not cover things up by writing to the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office. I think this was a responsible decision. It may have been a wrong decision but it was a responsible decision by public officials.
Chairman: Thank you. These are obviously matters that we cannot pursue further with this committee today, but it is very much in our hands when the IPCC and the coroner have completed their investigations for us as a committee to have those involved back here to look in detail at the conclusions that will be drawn. Thank you for your answers on those questions. Can I turn now to Mr Winnick?
Q64 Mr Winnick: I am sure that we want to return at some stage to the questions put by Mr Herbert and your answers to him. The position is far from closed, as I am sure you appreciate. As far as engaging with the Muslim community is concerned are you of the view that the situation is the same or worse after the July bombings?
Sir Ian Blair: I think I am in a position to contradict you, Mr Winnick. I think it is better, not worse. We had had long engagement with the Muslim communities of London, partially through our independent advisers who had Muslim members, secondly, through local contacts with mosques, and, thirdly, by what was a developing organisation at that stage, the Muslim Safety Forum. We have spent a lot of time working with them. If I can give you a concrete example of that, it was the re-establishment of the Finsbury Park mosque, which was done through co-operation between the Metropolitan Police, our advisers and the executive committee of the mosque in very difficult circumstances. I think that after 7 July the Muslim communities of Britain were faced with what was undoubtedly their worst nightmare, which was the prospect of people from their own community carrying out these atrocities in the name of some perverted version of Islam, and we immediately went to work with them by a number of different meetings. I went to address the large mosque up in Waltham Forest, which has the most significant connection to Pakistan, which was the connection to the 7 July bombings. Since that time my colleague, Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who is the most senior Muslim officer in Britain, has directly engaged with a wide spectrum of Muslim opinion. Our particular object is to do this: to make the Muslim communities feel protected and to assist them to do what they now need to do, which is develop some form of their own security organisation that can identify those at risk of extremism. We have to do both of those things while balancing our responsibilities to other communities, whether they be Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Christian or of no faith at all. Those are the three objects of our exercise at the moment.
Q65 Mr Winnick: Most people will understand the need, certainly since the events in July, to protect all people, including, obviously, the Muslim community, and Muslims, as we know, are among the victims of the 7 July atrocities, but do you feel that there is a possibility, as happened with the black community some years ago with stops and searches, that that could (understandably, in the view of many of us, in view of what occurred) antagonise relationships with many in the Muslim community?
Sir Ian Blair: It remains a litmus test as to how successfully we can do this. The power under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, of course, requires no suspicion; it only requires intelligence, an intelligent approach to policing. Clearly we are going to have to work very carefully not to alienate groups of the Muslim community. There are a number of points to make. The first is that the word "Muslim" is not synonymous with Asian. There are many white Muslims, lots of black Muslims and many Asian Muslims. Secondly, it is impossible to tell the difference without some dress code (but not all the time) between different Asian groups. Thirdly, we are not in the business of just stopping and searching people who fit a particular profile. Clearly we will take account of that but, on the other hand, to say that because all these alleged bombers were men we are not going to search women would be a very foolish step and would lead to the bombers operating in different ways. I think we have got a pretty balanced and intelligent process but it is going to need an awful lot of explanation and I know that a number of Muslim friends of mine have found things rather difficult.
Mr Hayman: I have written just in the last couple of days to Lord Carlile on the points that have just been explained by Ian. The guidance that we are now giving to our officers who are executing the stop and search under section 44 come under the five factors to avoid any target or any particular group. Those five factors are based on the current threat assessment, the current level of authorisation, the areas of vulnerability, ie, by geographic vulnerability as well as any other issue, and also the borough counter-terrorism profile. That in some sophisticated briefings through officers going out on to patrol addresses some of the issues that Lord Carlile highlighted to us in his review.
Q66 Mr Winnick: We know that unfortunately there are extremist groups who will use any opportunity to attack Muslims, or indeed Asians, which I will come to in a moment; it is not confined to Muslims. Has the Muslim community been in touch with you, Sir Ian, and other senior police officers in London about increased attacks on their citizens since July?
Sir Ian Blair: Yes, they certainly have, although in fact the pattern does not show very much of an increase. We have two categories of reporting: faith hate crime and hate crime. The faith hate crime is almost a new development in the last year, so it has shown a very significant rise. As soon as you then compare it with the hate crimes you will find the hate crimes have fallen in almost exactly the same numbers, so it is a fairly straightforward pattern which rose a little bit after 7 July and a little bit after 21 July but has now returned to levels existing throughout the year. We have not seen in London a rise in attacks of that nature.
Q67 Mr Winnick: We have had a memorandum from the Hindu Forum of Britain who seem somewhat unhappy for a number of reasons. They say, for example, that the police are engaging in the Muslim community in stark contrast, and I quote, "to the manner in which the Hindu community and other minority faith groups have been treated". They have said Hindus have been given 24-hour invitations for consultations, it has often been ad hoc, and requests for ministerial meetings to discuss their concerns, which you are not responsible for, of course, have been brushed aside. We could ask the Home Secretary at some other stage about that but did you know the concern of the Hindu community that they are not being treated quite in the same manner as the Muslim community, or is there any justification for that?
Sir Ian Blair: I cannot deal with the individual suggestions but I think in general there is a justification there, and to some extent I hope it will be seen as understandable. We have got to get into very close contact with the Muslim community but, of course, we want to stay very close with the Hindus and the Sikhs. On the day that I went to this mosque in Waltham Forest I went to a Hindu temple in Harrow and to a Sikh gavara in Southall giving exactly the same message, because in the end each of these communities needs to support each of the other communities with their own experience, and I am positive we will get back on an even keel. One of my colleagues was suggesting that we have an early meeting with the Hindu Safety Forum and with a Sikh equivalent fairly soon and I will engage in that.
Q68 Mr Winnick: You will do so?
Sir Ian Blair: I will, yes.
Q69 Mr Winnick: Arising from this meeting they can have that reassurance?
Sir Ian Blair: Absolutely.
Q70 Mr Winnick: One other point about hate crimes, which we mentioned earlier on. In their memorandum they say that the Metropolitan Police have released figures of such crimes and it emerged that over 930 victims of hate crimes from the Hindu and the Sikh community occurred between the period of 7 July and 10 August, while 600 victims came from the Pakistani and Bangladesh communities. Clearly, among certain sorts of thug in Britain there is no distinction: they are all Pakis, so to speak, in the language of such extremists. Do you feel there is this danger, that it is not just the Muslim community but other Asians who are just as subject to this?
Sir Ian Blair: Absolutely, and that is why I think it is about engaging not only with each individual community but also with these community organisations to help one another. The kind of idiot that attacks a turban attacks a hijab or a yamulca for that matter. I am afraid the education of racists is probably not very high.
Q71 Mr Malik: You mentioned that you monitor hate crimes. I think you are only one of four forces in the country that does so and I just wondered if you found it helpful and, if so, might it be something that you would recommend to your ACPO colleagues?
Sir Ian Blair: I do find it helpful and we certainly have recommended to our ACPO colleagues. Obviously, our writ does not run there.
Q72 Chairman: Sir Ian and Mr Hayman, you have talked about the importance of support from the communities. Has the volume of information on people of concern, potential terrorists, extremists, increased from the community since 7 July?
Sir Ian Blair: I would say yes, it has, and we know that it did significantly in relation to some of the arrests that took place, but Andy will have a bit more detail.
Q73 Chairman: Obviously, we cannot talk about individual arrests or information. It is just a general assessment.
Mr Hayman: If you look into the increase you will see it, but the point has to be made that it starts from a very low base line. A lot of the challenge for the community and ourselves is better engagement and the move from what we consider to be a good degree of liaison and joint working, which is a good platform to build on, to something different, from that then encouraging the giving of information or intelligence. I think the signs are encouraging. There is a willingness on all sides to engage and I think that over the next couple of months or so, building on my colleagues' work and that of other colleagues around the country, it means a move from liaison and consultation into intelligence and information.
Q74 Chairman: The description that we have had this morning about the way in which relationships with Muslim communities in particular are structured seems to be fairly heavily concentrated on links with the community as it is organised in and around mosques, places of worship. There have been suggestions that the spread of extremist and radical ideas is not actually taking place through those traditional fora, or at least not exclusively - the use of the internet, other informal networks and so on. Are you adjusting the way in which you are deploying your officers and the places that you try to make contact with the community in order to ensure that those newer ways of transmitting ideas are covered as effectively as the more traditional fora?
Sir Ian Blair: It remains a fairly difficult area here because clearly one wants to do this with the consent of the communities, but then we also have to reach out to radicalised and alienated youth. I think the only way we can do this is through those communities. Tarique Ghaffur has a series of fora, including young people and so on, and certainly in terms of our intelligence effort we would be monitoring the internet. We also have concerns, as the Home Secretary has mentioned, around bookshops and so on, and we are, I think, in a position in which we would hope that the people in the mosques would start to be aware of who the people are that used to be there but are no longer there that have gone through an Islamic equivalent of the house church movement in Christianity, and that is people of whom we are not saying they are doing anything illegal but we might have some concerns about them.
Mr Hayman: There is another area we are responding to with colleagues and with the community, and that is the role of prisons and what is happening when people are serving sentences. It is in the public domain so we can comment on this. We do know that that is a hot spot for people to be radicalised. An initiative which is being introduced at the moment along with the community is that on the point of release there are mentors allocated to people released from prison with the sole aim of informing and developing understanding of the Islamic values and how they are rooted in the local community and to try and develop a much bigger area of local responsibility. I believe this is a very innovative initiative. It embraces all the agencies, including the community, and puts a lot of responsibility across the piste rather than in one particular area.
Chairman: Thank you. I think this committee in particular will welcome those last remarks because it was in the report that we published in the spring when we warned about the danger of neglecting what went on in prisons as a potential source of recruitment. I have to say we had a slightly dusty official government response, but it is very pleasing to hear that the problems are being dealt with in any case in the way you suggest. Thank you very much indeed. Sir Ian, Mr Hayman, can I thank you very much indeed for your evidence. Can I just say at this stage that Sir Ian said that members of the family of Mr Menezes are in the room. I think it is also possible that members of the families of those who were killed in the bombing are present. I just want to repeat what I said at the beginning of the meeting. We have been constrained this morning by the sub judice rules about the detail into which we can go into the individual events but it is certainly very open to this committee and I think certain that this committee will return to those events when the various court cases and inquiries have been carried out and I hope that we will continue to provide a forum where those who have suffered in any way through the bombings can hear their concerns aired in Parliament and the right people be brought to account. Sir Ian, Mr Hayman, thank you very much indeed.
Witnesses: Mr Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, and Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, examined.
Chairman: This is the final section of our hearing this morning. Can I welcome Ken Livingstone and Sir Iqbal Sacranie to us this morning? Both, I think, are very familiar to Members of the Committee and we are looking forward to what you can tell us, perhaps from a community and from a London perspective, on where we are today. I am going to ask Mr Prosser to open the questioning.
Q75 Gwyn Prosser: Mr Livingstone, what is your assessment of the way London has coped with the events of last July? Can you tell us what lessons you have learned, other than some of the evidence we have had from the Commissioner? Perhaps you can tell us something about the resource implications of any sort of new initiatives you might be considering.
Mr Livingstone: We started planning for this day after 9/11. The Government established the Resilience Committee which was chaired by Nick Raynsford for the first four years, and we went through every possible combination of attack on London that we could think of. I would hate to, off the top of my head, out of my last four budgets, extract a total figure for what additionally we spent in preparation for this but it is tens of millions of pounds, both in extra resources for policing, extra equipment for policing and extra personnel for policing. The same also for the fire authority. We predicated on the various exercises we conducted. We did specifically conduct an exercise on how we would cope with multiple bomb attacks on the Underground and transport system during a Friday evening rush hour, and on the basis that all the Government had left London for a variety of reasons, and we also conducted exercises based on operating under a terrorist attack on the assumption that Scotland Yard had been neutralised by a bomb attack itself and that myself and my office had been blown up. So we did cover virtually every possibility and we spent a lot of money on it. Therefore, as I say, when I got back from Singapore, and my first meeting was with Sir Ian, we could not think of a single response that should have been made by the emergency service that we had not done, or any breakdown or failure. There are clearly problems arising out of the mobile 'phone system. I think the particular circumstances of this attack, in the rush hour and in quite disparate parts, meant that most probably a third of Londoners would have thought someone they knew or a relative might have been involved; everyone reached for their 'phone and the system broke down. We also had a short failure in the police communication system with families phoning to get information - just the sheer volume of it. We are waiting to hear from the mobile 'phone companies what we can do about this but I am not certain there is going to be an easy, and certainly there will not be cheap, response. There was also a delay in establishing the family unit. Tessa Jowell, who was put in charge of this area by the Prime Minister, has asked that my office take on board the rapid opening of the family unit in the event of any further attack and we would aim to have it established on the day of the attack, not the second day. We are starting discussing with London boroughs a range of locations in London we can identify now. With the furniture and other equipment that is put into storage, the objective will be that the moment we hear of an attack and we know the location, take it out of storage and get the service up and running. I think there are also problems about the distance of Hendon from the centre of London, which we are looking at. There is also, clearly, a real difficulty in getting across to people, when you are dealing with a crime scene like this, the length of time it will take to be able to establish the identification of people who have been lost in an explosion, particularly the destruction when an explosion is forced back in on itself in a confined space. I think, perhaps, had we anticipated it, we needed to tell people that it might be a considerable period of time before we can identify positively, if ever, the person you have lost.
Q76 Gwyn Prosser: In Sir Ian's evidence you might have heard him make some remarks about some of the difficulties of radio communication - Metropolitan Police radios versus the British Transport Police. In evidence we have received from the RMT Union they talk about deficiencies in the radios which the drivers keep and the communications between them and central control. They also talk about what they call the "hot" procedure, the procedure for assessing the danger of unidentified or unattended baggage. Have you got any comments on those matters?
Mr Livingstone: On the question of the communications on the Underground, there are oddities and there are parts of the system (and you understand I do not wish to identify them) where we are never in contact with trains, and fortunately they pass through those points very rapidly. We have a problem when the system closes and a train is in those places. I inherited what I would call a seriously underperforming PFI that had been let, I think, by a previous government (the length of time these things take) to put in a new radio communication system on the Underground. It was so defective, Bob Kiley and myself looked to see whether there was any way we could void the contract and move on but the penalty clauses were so enormous this was not possible. So we have been working to try and make it more effective, but it will still be a couple of years, at the earliest, before we have the sort of system that we want to see. This incompatibility of systems underground, I think, is a real defect but they date back mainly to decisions in the early 1990s and three very complex PFIs, and they are bad. On the question of packages, I met the leadership of the three rail unions in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, and clearly they are concerned and they are nervous, and we did what we could to reassure them. I think we now have reached a point where they are confident that the procedures that we have in place and operate - it is a matter of common sense. Clearly, we do not want to stop the entire system every time somebody leaves their bag of sandwiches on the train, and we rely on the good sense of our staff on the Underground initially to make an assessment and make certain they call the police when there is any serious doubt. We are reliant on the good sense of our staff, and I have to say it works very well. In the immediate aftermath, a week/ten days afterwards, we were basically stopping virtually everything. I think we have now settled back into a more measured and accurate assessment of risk.
Q77 Gwyn Prosser: Can I ask, Sir Iqbal, whether you are satisfied with the response from the Metropolitan Police in terms of their counter-terrorism or their investigations, and importantly their liaison with local communities?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: I think there are two points that have come up. On the issue of the liaison, historically the traditional relationship between the police and the Muslim community has not been good, for various discriminatory policing matters that have taken place. But that work should improve considerably over a period of time. This is where organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain and others had regular meetings with the police, the Police Commissioner and the other senior members as well and identified areas where there was this lack of confidence in the community as far as the local police are concerned. So prior to 7/7 there was quite a bit of work that had taken place on the ground, and they were asked to see a situation that when this tragic event took place on 7/7 the way the police actually handled the whole issue was remarkable. The man at the SO3, Paddick, faced the questions when he was asked whether it had anything to do with Islam or the Muslim community, and he came out very openly and very clearly that it appeared that one should not construe that this is something to do with the teachings of Islam or the relationship to the Muslim community. That very powerful message, I think, helped immensely as to how the situation went along. There is also a problem in terms of the relationship generally with the Metropolitan Police, which has been moving in a very positive way, with that compared with the work of the special unit, the SO3 or the anti-terrorist squad that when they move in, when they carry out the measures about anti-terror activities, there is a lack of co-ordination between the Metropolitan Police, or the police on the ground, with the SO3 because they are not really aware of what work had been done in the community by the police officers in building with the local mosques, the local community organisations in terms of ensuring that how they approach the people, the methods they carry out, the language that has been used and the measures being carried out. This at times gives a very negative signal across the community, as though this is the role of the police. Generally, the police should not be classified in terms of the activities of the SO3 or the special squad, which needs to be looked at much more deeply, so there is a better understanding of how they carry out. Of course, one also understands that the security of the nation can never be compromised but there are clearly ways to go about it so that, at the end of the day, the results that you want to achieve are much more positive and effective.
Q78 Gwyn Prosser: Mr Livingstone, do you want to add to that?
Mr Livingstone: I agree. If I can put it in perspective, 20 years ago, I think, many of London's ethnic minority and faith communities saw the police as part of the problem in London. Those days are gone. That was brought home to me shortly before the first Mayoral election in the bombing campaign of David Copeland, and I went to Brick Lane and Brixton, where the police were meeting with ethnic minority community leaderships, and found an absolutely transformed situation: the ethnic minorities saw the police as their first line of defence, and they were co-operating. There has been, over a generation, a transformation. We could not have made the progress we did in identifying and then, subsequently, catching the second wave of attempted terrorists without the active support of the Muslim community, even down to the difficult decision one father had to take to tell the police that it was his son that they were seeking.
Q79 Gwyn Prosser: Looking to the future, ten years hence, do you see an ever-increasing level of security and regular searches and random searches on the Underground system? If not, what is the answer?
Mr Livingstone: Given we had 30 years of the IRA campaign, we have in place a scale of infrastructure to cope with terrorism that many other cities in the world are now rushing to install. Likewise, when people say "Look at what Athens spent on security", and make assumptions that we will have to spend much more, Athens was putting in place the technology we put in place to cope with the IRA campaign. Over the next five years it is my intention we should double the number of closed-circuit television cameras on the Underground and constantly upgrade the technologies so that the images get better and better. We have now got closed-circuit television on 95% of our buses and that will be 100%, bottom deck and top deck, by the end of the year. Increasingly, the cameras that we have in place for things like congestion charging and so on are a vital resource at key times in all these matters. I do not anticipate a dramatically changed way of life for Londoners; most Londoners make realistic assessments about risk. We saw the comment of Sir John Stevens in his autobiography at the weekend that there had been eight attempts to take lives in London. I am in no position to quarrel with that. Over four years we have been incredibly good at actually stopping people getting through and we eventually knew we would fail. I suspect we will catch many others before we fail again, but I and Sir John were both criticised about 18 months ago for warning that it was a question of "when" and not "if". The technologies we have put in place have helped us to minimise the loss of life and we will continue to beef it up. There is not at the moment any technology that we could install at tube stations. People think in terms of what they go through at the airport but for every person that goes through Heathrow Airport today 15 will go through the Underground system, and you just have to think of many of the tube stations you know, there is not physically the space to have that sort of equipment for monitoring baggage and so on; there would be huge tailbacks and it would mean a dramatic change in the length of time people take on journeys. We are alert and watching to see if anyone can develop the sort of sniffer technology that you might walk under, but that is not there in a way that would be useful for the Underground, bearing in mind we have quite often fairly extensive air movements through these places.
Q80 Mr Malik: Sir Iqbal, I think in the last few weeks your organisation has come under a lot of media scrutiny, a lot of it negative, and I want you to respond to some of that and also to respond to the belief that I think is held within parts of the Muslim community that, actually, you are not terribly representative of that particular community. I wondered if you wanted to respond to those two things.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: It is important for all to understand what the Muslim Council of Britain is all about. As much it is a national umbrella body which has, at the moment, 400 affiliates across the country, it encompasses communities that are basically from 56 different nationalities. The two main groups, the Sunni and Shia, are in that sort of organisation. But, diversely, the Muslim community, as I am sure you are well aware, is indeed very diverse, and it is the uniqueness of this body that brings in together such diverse groups on one platform. One also needs to be aware as to how this organisation has come into being. So in answer to the particular question as to why it is not representative, the organisation never claims that it is the body that represents the entire Muslim community in this country. Prior to its establishment there was hardly a body that could bring in together such diverse views on one platform as the voice of the Muslim community. Through a period of consultation for five years - extensive consultation across the community - it emerged that there was a need for a national body that can bring together such diverse communities on the basis of the lowest common denominator agreement. That emerged through that process. Of course, the body is a democratically elected body, with elections being held every two years, the term of the Secretary General is limited to a maximum of two terms and he has to be elected after two years to be eligible for the second term. There are 18 committees, each of the committees is shadowing a government department and the vast majority of the members who have been working with them are volunteers and are professionals - young people, women - able to take part in the organisation. The main school of thought that we have between the Sunni and the Shia are represented. The scholars within these traditions and some of the key scholars across the country sit on the Central Working Committee so that we have been given regular advice by the scholars from different sections of the understanding, the facts and the schools of thought, and there was this criticism that one section of the community, the Sufi group within the community, are perhaps not represented. I wish people would habitually look into the membership list and approach them to find out. In fact, one of the inaugural meetings took place in Birmingham, at a Sufi mosque, Ghamkol Mosque in Birmingham, hosted by the Convention of Sunni Mosques in the Midlands (?). The Convention of Sunni Mosques, which is the major body of the Sufi school of understanding, is represented on the Council. So it has the diverse understanding. Of course we have shortcomings, and when there is scrutiny of organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain, I think sometimes it is a good sign, it is a public body and let the community be aware as to what it is doing, what are its achievements and what are its shortcomings. However, for that scrutiny to take place it is only fair that both sides of the view are known. We have some achievements that are very positive work that has taken place, and that should really be acknowledged. The shortcomings that we have: what shortcomings are they? The great difficulty that we have, as I am sure you are well aware, is that at times there is a very critical approach, strong criticism, emerging from the Muslim community, saying that we are not really presenting the views of the local community to the Cabinet, or able to get their views across to government departments. We are doing our best, in terms of the voluntary work which we are all so involved in, we are not full-time employees ----
Q81 Mr Malik: The first part of the question was really, I suppose, the "P" word, Panorama, and the allegations, I wondered if you wanted to comment on some of that, which obviously have been undermining for you and your organisation.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: That is right. It is rather sad that such an esteemed programme like Panorama was able to come out with a programme that was so poorly researched and with so much factually incorrect information. Just to give one example, leaving aside the various quotes that were taken out of context, in a certain website and saying, "Well, out of the 400 organisations, a particular organisation's website has got certain information", perhaps we would totally disagree with that, but then to say that that reflects on the Muslim Council of Britain; we have, as I mentioned earlier on, a diverse membership and people will have views with which, perhaps, we would not concur. By and large, when these members do join the Muslim Council of Britain there is a clear procedure of affiliation and they have to concur and agree with the constitution of that particular body. All that information is on a website. One of the beauties of the organisation is to be totally transparent in terms of our activities: who we meet, the issues that are discussed, the subjects that are taken on board - they are all there. On the Panorama problem, just to come on to that particular point, information like the reference I have given to the Holocaust Memorial, and that has been in the public domain in the last couple of days as well, it is very sad how this can be misconstrued and misleading information is provided in the media, somehow stating that the MCB is ditching the Holocaust, or whatever. No such remarks have been made. In fact, to the contrary, when we were asked to respond to the consultation paper by the Home Office in 1999 we made it absolutely clear that the Holocaust tragedy that took place is something on which all of us share the pain and the grief of the Jewish community. Of course, there were others who were persecuted in this Nazi era, the gypsies and the black community, but the point is that it is not just one single tragedy; there have been many other tragedies over a period of time, and the message that is supposed to come out of the remembrance day is "Never again". How do we bring it about in an effective way? The only effective way is that that tragedy should never repeat itself in any part of the world. We have seen that there have been killing fields in Cambodia and over a million people have died in Rwanda; the thousands of people that were killed in Bosnia and Kosovo (sadly, the last incidents happened to the Muslim community). There is a strong feeling that somehow lives lost within sections of the community are less important or less valued. We know that is not true but let us also come out into the open, and our actions should explain itself: that we value life equally; all life is sacred. So one aspect of the Panorama programme (?) was they deliberately left that aspect and said we had not mentioned Rwanda or other tragedies other than the Muslim tragedies. So I think these sorts of problems, as much as they are important, the community organisations need to scrutinise and as long as they are balanced, fair and they reflect the facts on the ground, then I think there is something to learn from it. Simply to denigrate or malign an organisation and say that they have not really had a useful purpose or linked with extremist organisations without looking into the area of work that has taken place, that is very, very sad.
Q82 Colin Burgon: Hello, Sir Iqbal. In your response to Shahid Malik there you got across the point which I think is very important, that the Muslim community is not monolithic, and when we look at the Muslim Council for Britain do you honestly believe that you can - and we have this problem as politicians because, believe it or not, we are considered to be out of touch with young people and considered to be part of the establishment, and you are a Sir. In that sense, do you think that as a representative of the Muslim Council of Britain you can connect with some of the young kids from Beeston (because I am a Leeds MP) who have taken what I think is quite a perverse view on the events of 7 July and 21 July? Do you think you are the person or you are the organisation to connect with them? Is it wrong for people to think that the Muslim Council of Britain is the organisation that can actually combat extremism within the Muslim community?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: One has to understand the structure of the Muslim Council of Britain. It is not based on personalities, it is an institution. That institution has membership at three levels: it has national bodies, which are already in existence - more than 18 of those already affiliated to the Council; we have got regional organisations that have got membership in various regions - for example, the Federation of the Mosque in Leicestershire, that has about 15 or 20 of their own mosques, and the Lancashire Council of Mosques which has got 40-odd mosques registered under that regional umbrella body - and then we have got the institutions and mosques across the country. Within the national affiliates we also have the Federation of Islamic Societies - the Islamic Society of Britain, young Muslims and young Muslim organisations. These bodies are very much connected to the grassroots community, and it is through these affiliated bodies that we are able to get into the community. MCD does not itself have a direct link with the individual Muslim member of the community, per se, on a one-to-one basis; it is a body of organisations and institutions, and these bodies and organisations primarily are mosques on the ground. It is through the sort of feedback that comes to us from the mosques, from the institutions, that we base our policies upon, in terms of how we respond to consultation papers and the approaches that have been made through departments in terms of what are the needs of the community. How the community can play its important role is through that communication.
Q83 Colin Burgon: There was a perception before July that many Muslims were reluctant to accept there is a problem with terrorism and terrorist sympathies in the Muslim community. Even today we have prominent Muslim leaders who question whether Muslims were involved in the bombings and have even suggested that various video tapes that were seen were fake. What is your take on this? Do you accept that such a denial is damaging both to the Muslim community in Britain and in the overall effort to tackle extremism?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: When we talk about a state of denial, I think it has to be looked at in a clear manner as to what we refer to by that. By and large, the number of people that have approached us have questioned: "Can Muslims ever carry out such vicious, criminal acts?" This is something which we have to try to understand. As a believer, and this is something which has come out openly with a statement issued by the prominent scholars in this country, on which the Muslim Council of Britain convened the meeting, we have explicitly given out the position of Islam in terms of taking innocent lives: not just utterly condemned it but in terms of the punishment that can be accorded to such individuals. This is what really makes one question. It is not possible that someone who practises Islam, who attends mosques, would carry out such an act? I did ask those individuals: why are they doubting? I was in a privileged position when I had discussions with the police, and the information that was presented to us made it clear to us that, yes, the people who were involved were Muslims. It hurt us immensely when the cry outside is that it is linked with Islam or something to do with the strands of teaching of Islam or whatever. One needs to understand where these people are coming from, and the information that has been presented to them as to the proof as to who these were and, initially, the disbelief. I met the families of some of the bombers and they were simply astounded as well: someone who had lived within themselves. They do not accept the fact that some person within their own would carry out such an act. I think it is more of making it clear that a Muslim, a true believer, a believer who believes in the teachings of Islam, who is a proper follower, would not carry out such a criminal act.
Q84 Mrs Cryer: We talked earlier with the Home Secretary about the various meetings that the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and various other Home Office Ministers have had both here in London and in the provinces with members of the Muslim community. I mention Shahid Malik was there as well, and we had an excellent meeting in Bradford where there must have been, I would think, 200 people there, but unfortunately only about 5% women, and that was raised by those women - why were they in such a small minority? I wonder if you can suggest anything that is going on or anything that you think could be done to get through more to grassroots Muslim opinion, particularly young people and particularly women, and, also, comment on the situation in some of our universities where mainstream Muslim opinion is being sidelined and being pushed to one side by Hizb-ut-Tahir. I think that is very unfortunate because the people who are in those universities in Islamic societies and have been pushed to one side are our hope for tomorrow. They are the people who could be the Iqbal Sacranies of tomorrow, the role models of tomorrow. I wonder if you could just comment on a few of those things.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Just before the tragic events of 7/7 the Muslim Council of Britain was looking into some very, very key issues that we had raised: how do you ensure that our youth in the community are able to play that important mainstream role? In terms of participation in all spectrums of our daily lives there has been a tremendous improvement but we still think it is lacking. How do we combat those extreme views that are prevailing within a small section of the youth community? The answer to that was us setting up three important working groups: one was to deal with the youth, and that work was expedited immediately after 7/7. The first report was presented to the meeting in Manchester only two weeks ago, and we are hopeful that by the end of the month the full report will be prepared. That will hopefully come out with key action points in terms of areas of greater participation of the community, particularly the youth, in the mainstream and different areas, and also how best that we can combat this extremism that prevails in certain parts of the community. Where is this radicalisation coming from? That would, hopefully, be able to be explored further. At the same time, we are also looking into the women's group. It is crucial that women play an important role in the affairs of our nation, and more so in the community; the respect they command, the role they have as far as Islam is concerned, is very clear, and it is a very important role they have to play, but how come that there are few women? The Muslim Council has taken steps to ensure that even in the Central Working Committee we have women co-opted on important committees. At present we have at least three women who chair important committees that deal with the general issues. So we are actually working in that field as well. Through our affiliates of the tradition of Islamic societies we have had meetings with them. Only two weeks ago there was an important conference held at the GLA (?) where they played a very important role and they identified areas of how the youth, particularly in the universities, are able to play that role. We are looking into how we should see that the mainstream view prevails and comes out. It is of course in the media (generally it has been a standard position) the rhetoric that comes from the extreme elements, and that is what gives a greater news story, because they come up with some ridiculous statements and so on, and gives maximum coverage. So I think, on the one hand, there is this concern that we understand and we accept but there are moves at the moment to combat that, and more so now after this tragic event of 7/7.
Q85 Mrs Cryer: What is your view of the proscription of Hizb-ut-Tahir and other extremist groups? Do you think it would help or just make martyrs of them?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: We had a clear statement issued when the PM made the announcement about the proscription of this group. We believe that banning groups is not the answer. This will not bring an end to the concerns that we are experiencing in the community. There was an important letter that I sent out after the Madrid bombing that went out to all the mosques across the country, urging them to be aware of extreme elements coming to the mosques, preaching, getting the message of hatred out. How do we combat it? We at that time advised that we have to ensure that these people are not given a platform in the mosques. There was a concern at that time. Fortunately, the vast majority of the mosques adhered to that and these elements were simply not allowed to preach their message of hatred or which we felt was a message totally contradictory to the teachings of Islam - they were not allowed in the mosque. What happened was they moved underground and they moved into centres and other places where they were able to bring together certain groups. So I think we run a danger with these elements, but as long as they do not promote violence, they do not incite hatred, they are fully aware that the law of the country would prevail and would be firm in terms of treating such acts which they are in breach of, then we should not really have a problem. But those who contradict this, then of course the law should take its full course.
Q86 Mr Clappison: Sir Iqbal, we heard from the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police his view that relations between the police and the Muslim community are, in fact, better. Is that your view as well?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Yes. I think it has improved a lot. There has been better communication. The setting up of the Muslim Safety Forum was an important and essential move, and we need to understand the historical background, as I referred to earlier. Bearing that in mind, when you look today at the situation, in fact the support that has been given by the GLA and other important institutions, encouraging that communication, I think, has helped a lot towards a better understanding.
Q87 Mr Clappison: Is stop and search something which still crops up as an issue?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Yes, there are concerns that we have in terms of the disproportionality of stop and searches being carried out. This is in terms of the statistics that have been made available at the time. I believe now, yes, there are measures being taken. We heard from the Commissioner earlier on that that is one aspect that they are certainly dealing with.
Mr Clappison: I very much understand the concerns you are expressing about that but we have taken evidence (I think the Chairman confirmed this) about the incidence of stop and search and it perhaps does not bear the complexion which some people put on it in their comments, and the number of particularly Asian people who are stopped and searched, perhaps, is not the same proportion as some people been suggesting, but I understand the concerns that you have expressed, understandably, on behalf of your community.
Q88 Nick Harvey: On the issue of stop and search, Sir Iqbal, there was a report in The Independent newspaper this morning looking at the guidelines that have been given by the British Transport Police in regard to stop and search. These start off, as you would expect, warning officers to avoid any sort of stereotyping and talking about the need for a "targeted intelligence-led approach" and then it says: "However, the suspects in the July cases have been Asian, West Indian and East African", which seems to depart entirely from the starting note. Have you got any comment or observation about that?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: This perhaps reflects the earlier comment made by the head of the Transport Police, Mr Johnston, where I think inferences were drawn that perhaps attention should be given more to people from Asian backgrounds, and profiling these sorts of comments are most unhelpful. As you rightly said, I think we have heard earlier this morning, all stop and search or any of the activity in terms of counter-terrorism must be intelligence-led, and that is the way forward. It happens to be that the criminals that carried out the atrocious act happened to be Muslims of Asian background. The people who were then subsequently arrested for 21 July happened to be from the Somali background.
Q89 Chairman: Sir Iqbal, just to stop you going too much into the detail of the charges against individuals because of the sub judice procedures.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: That is in terms of background.
Q90 Mr Clappison: As our Committee found in the evidence that we took in our previous inquiry, the actual proportion of Asians stopped and searched in the Metropolitan area, in particular, was very much in line with the size of the Asian population in the Metropolitan area and we made our finding, which is there in the report, that the community was not being unreasonably targeted, but we do understand the concerns which you express.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: In terms of the Asians, I would perhaps agree, but if you were able to dissect that further and find out in terms of the faith communities, then I believe that information data is not really made available ----
Q91 Mr Clappison: It is a difficult point.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: This is the real problem that we have been facing, that if that data was available in terms of the faith background of the Asian people then perhaps the answer would have come, but from the feedback that we get from the community we can certainly say that the profiling in terms of the people who are being stopped, it is very, very clear that they are predominantly those with the Islamic faith background.
Q92 Mr Clappison: Could I put another point to you which the Commissioner mentioned, about the reaction which there was immediately after the July bombings? I think he said that whilst there had been a rise in hatred crimes, it had only risen a little and they had not seen a big rise. Would that be your experience as well, and do you agree that that suggests that there is some robustness in our community relations?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: I was slightly concerned with the remarks made by the Commissioner in terms of the increase in the hate crimes, because I think there were statistics being offered by the Metropolitan Police which suggested there was an increase of about 600% in terms of the hate crimes in the Metropolitan area. That needs to be confirmed because that is the information I have available. Very rightly it has been mentioned earlier that it is not all the police authorities in the country that monitor or record hate crimes, but I think we need to be clear. Generally, of course, there has been a backlash in the community and the community has suffered in many, many ways through the arson attacks in mosques and community centres being vandalised, but again I think it is to the credit of the community and the advice we offered to them, in terms of even at that time of pressure that was on them, that they were not provoked into taking retaliatory measures. Again, when we look into all the negativity that comes out, there are some very positive points there which do not seem to come into the open.
Mr Livingstone: Can I give the figures that I was given yesterday, which is that for specifically faith-hate crimes in London in the three weeks before 7 July we recorded 72, and in the three weeks after July we recorded 257. These are now rapidly falling back to the level before. Lest people think: "This sounds a horrifying level of violence", overwhelmingly these are examples of verbal abuse, mainly by European-origin men against women wearing distinctive clothing, and quite specifically not actually attacks on Muslim men. So a lot of this is quite cowardly, low-level background stuff and the vast majority of Londoners, I think, behave with incredible determination that they are not going to be divided. We are getting back very rapidly to the normal background level of incidents we used to see.
Q93 Chairman: Could you just say where those figures come from?
Mr Livingstone: I suspect those will have come from the police, but they come via my office.
Q94 Chairman: It is not separate Mayoral Office monitoring, it is through the police?
Mr Livingstone: We only have the data we get from the Met.
Q95 Mr Clappison: We heard the Commissioner and I think we would all agree that we need to be vigilant against any such types of attack, but there would appear to be some considerable robustness in relations between communities. Can I go back to one matter you have touched on already, Sir Iqbal, in the context of community relations and what you were saying about holocaust education and the Holocaust Memorial Day? I understand the points you make about other events which have taken place in the world, but can I just gently suggest to you that it would be a mistake to try and alter the Holocaust Memorial Day because it has failed to prevent other examples of holocaust in the world, the nature of the Holocaust Memorial day being a day to remember the unique horror of the Holocaust in Europe in the 1940s and as a warning to try and stop such holocausts ever taking place again. It would be a mistake to go into that to try and alter the character of that Holocaust Memorial Day, would it not?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: I entirely agree, and that is not the object of our viewpoint that has been presented. This has certainly been misconstrued in the national media. Our position has been very, very clear that we recognise and accept the enormous hurt and the uniqueness of that tragic event that needs to be remembered - there are no two ways about it - but what we are saying is that with that event the other events that have taken place over a period of time will also involve the loss of human life, and it would be only proper that we recognise all such tragedies. If there is a difficulty in bringing the other tragedies and incorporating with the Holocaust event, then let there be a national genocide day that can recognise in the same manner all other lives. I am sure that is not something which is asking too much, particularly of all the various communities, from the African, Bosnian, Kosovans, Cambodians, or whatever. We need to send a very powerful message that we value life and we value life equally.
Q96 Mr Clappison: I think you are aware that the Holocaust Memorial Day has also commemorated genocide, as in the case of Rwanda and other examples of genocide, but it is there to recognise as well the unique horror of what took place in Europe, with the loss of all those lives.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: One does not dispute that very fact.
Q97 Mr Clappison: You would be happy for the Holocaust Memorial Day to continue as today, commemorating the Holocaust and the other genocide holocausts which have taken place?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: That is precisely the position that we have, yes.
Q98 Mr Clappison: Can I turn to the Mayor and ask him if he feels that the community cohesion in London, which we have heard about, would be maintained if there were further bombings? What is your view on that?
Mr Livingstone: Clearly, we will not know until that happens, but the situation that we saw with the first bombings and then the attempted bombings two weeks apart, we have come through that without shaking what I think is the most advanced city in the world in terms of how far we have gone down the road of accepting diversity and living in tolerance. If we look at not faith-hate crime but the totality of racist incidents in London, they have fallen by 35% over the last five years, against the background of two Commissioners of Police who have made it much more a part of the focus of policing. If anything, one would have expected those figures to go up. In all the polling we do, Londoners are quite distinctly different in their attitudes to immigration, asylum and multiculturalism than anywhere else in Britain, much more accepting and committed to that. Londoners are not fools; they know that the economic success of this city depends on its openness and its tolerance, and therefore we have quite strikingly different figures in all these areas to the UK national polling.
Q99 Mr Clappison: Part of the background to community cohesion is keeping out people from this country who come to peddle hate and extreme views, and that has been done by governments of all political persuasions using their powers to exclude and deport undesirable people. You have heard the proposals of the Home Secretary as to how he proposes to take forward proposals to deport and exclude people. What is your view on what he is proposing?
Mr Livingstone: No one is going to object - well, some people will but the vast majority of people will not object - to anything that increases the safety of people. Therefore, where you have some completely off-the-wall and unrepresentative individual who is peddling hate they may have no more than a handful of supporters but they have a chance to influence young minds and that is the danger. What we have to be very careful about, though, is actually not creating martyrs. I cannot remember who it was mentioned the situation with Hizb-ut-Tahir - ie, here is an organisation that campaigns for a return to the Caliphate. About ten years ago they challenged me to a debate in Brent, about 300 young Muslims turned up for this, and I won. Virtually no young Muslims in Brent East wanted, as their prime concern in life, to return to the Caliphate; they wanted to get a house, their kids into good schools, secure employment - they shared the concerns of the other citizens. Therefore, I think, to ban them would immediately make them the focus of campaigning and sympathy and support. Where there is violence, where there are groups peddling hate, we have had groups preaching anti-Semitism, I have banned Al Mujahiroun (?) from using Trafalgar Square and prosecuted them when they ignored that ban. I remember all the mistakes that were made at the height of the IRA campaign in the 70s: how we ended up imprisoning the wrong people and much that we did was counterproductive, and I think we need to be absolutely clear in our scrutiny of these measures that we do not make similar mistakes.
Q100 Mr Clappison: You have your own very distinctive views on those, and we would not expect you to change your views which you have held over a long period of time. On the subject of excluding people, you have made your views clear about Mr al Qaradawi and I would not expect you to change your view here today; others, including myself, perhaps take a different view about him. In the light of what has taken place, would you be prepared to listen to those who have expressed concern about allowing somebody such as Mr al Qaradawi into the country? I know there are a range of views on Mr al Qaradawi, but it is on the record what he has said about the use of force, of terrorism in certain circumstances. Would you be prepared to at least listen to those who are concerned about what he has said about the use of terror and what he has said about other things as well, which I am sure you are well familiar with?
Mr Livingstone: I, of course, am engaged in extensive correspondence and these issues are raised at many meetings. Having been on the receiving end of the British media for some 25 years myself I am not prepared to accept what I read in the tabloid press is someone's views when I have met them myself and heard them say quite distinctly contrary things. I find myself in complete agreement with the internal Foreign Office document that was prepared as a brief for the Home Office on the subject of Dr Qaradawi, which completely corroborates the stand I have taken on every single point. You have read many alarming things, I know, about Dr Qaradawi's views about gays and about women, but the reality is that many of these come from translated sources which are hostile to the Sheik or are deliberate misinformation. The truth is Sheik Qaradawi, if I can think of a parallel that Christians would understand, is I think very similar to the position of Pope John XXIII - ie, absolutely saying Islam must engage with the world, we must have democracy in the Middle East, we must actually accept the changing role of women. He is, of all the Muslim thinkers in the world today, the most powerful, progressive force for change and engaging Islam with Western values. If we cannot talk to Qaradawi, you will not really be talking to anybody from the Muslim community.
Q101 Mr Clappison: That is your view on Mr al Qaradawi.
Mr Livingstone: And the Foreign Office.
Q102 Mr Clappison: And there are a range of views on Mr al Qaradawi. When you have met him, to go into the question of what his views actually are, did you discuss with him his views on the use of terror, on the use of suicide bombers? Do you accept that he has made certain comments advocating the use of suicide bombers - of women and child suicide bombers? Or are you saying that is not the case?
Mr Livingstone: He makes quite clear his position, that he believes that in the situation in Palestine and Israel, where all that Palestinians have is their bodies against Israeli tanks and aeroplanes, he does not condemn - and you can interpret him saying he actually is prepared to endorse - the use of suicide bombing in that circumstance. I do not agree with him. But then I do not agree with the policies of the Israeli Government either. He was virtually the first person to condemn the attacks on London. He did not just condemn the attacks on America on 9/11 but he went up and donated his own blood for the relief operation that then took place. If you read the Fore4ign Office document that has now been linked on so many websites, you will see that it points out that his views on the Middle East are shared by a majority of Muslims worldwide and a majority of Muslims in this country. We just have to accept that in a war zone - and it has been a war zone for all my lifetime - very unpleasant things are done by all sides. I am in the luxury of being able to condemn all violence because I am in an established parliamentary democracy; I do not even have to throw a rock. Yet other people do not have that luxury. I do not know what I would be doing if I was an Uzbek dealing with that government. Might I resort to terrorism? Might I resort to violence? Or would I wait to be killed by the regime? It is all very easy for us who lead largely protected and comfortable lives in established democracies - let us not forget a lot of people do not have that luxury.
Q103 Mr Clappison: There are a range of views on the Middle East, as we know. There has been, of course, loss of life on both sides in the Middle East. Would you be at least prepared to listen to those who are concerned about Dr al Qaradawi and any future visits which he makes to this country? In the light of the need for community cohesion with the communities that there are in London?
Mr Livingstone: Absolutely.
Q104 Chairman: Could you make a final answer to this question, because I think we are going over the same ground?
Mr Livingstone: Yes, is the answer.
Q105 Mr Winnick: You say, Mr Livingstone, that the person who came to Britain and whom you warmly welcomed, his views have been misrepresented. I have a paper from the library which would seem to indicate that what was said about him is true. He says, for example: "If I am asked at the present time is a Muslim allowed to marry a Jew, my answer would be no. That to marry a Muslim would be like marrying a Jewish woman spy working for Israel." Mr Livingstone, you should receive credit for the manner in which, when it was unpopular, you campaigned that people who want sexually to go with their own agenda should not be penalised in any way. As I say, you took a stand on that issue. This particular gentleman said this, if I may be allowed very briefly, Chair, to quote: "Muslim jurists hold different views concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication" (obviously he is not in favour of fornication) "or should both active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel they have been suggested to maintain the purity of Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted enemies." These are extremist views. They could come from the BNP or such like. I would ask you this, if I may, Mr Livingstone: if a Rabbi came over from Israel, one of the extremists (and Islam has no monopoly when it comes to extremists - all religions have) with these views, which I would call abominable, regarding Muslims, as this person has referred to Jews, or about homosexuals or what he calls "fornication" - whatever that may mean - would you really welcome such a Rabbi here and say, "Well, all points of view should be heard"?
Mr Livingstone: Can I say that what you have forgotten to include was the question mark at the end of your quote. I strongly suspect that this 79-year old Muslim cleric does not edit this website himself personally, and when you plough through it much of it, like most religious websites, it is a series of questions of a philosophical nature. When I met him he made clear in my presence that it was enough for someone to reject homosexuality; they were not required to take any action against those who practise it. We are not going to see Dr al Qaradawi on a Gay Rights march, but neither will I see the Pope on a Gay Rights march, and I will meet him. On the issue of marrying, I would need to check all these sources because many of them come from memory ----
Q106 Mr Winnick: He wants people put to death.
Mr Livingstone: He does not. I have met him and he has made that absolutely clear. He does not believe one should be a homosexual but he makes absolutely clear there should be no physical attacks on homosexuals. The trouble with a lot of these things is they come from websites where the translation is quite tendentious. All I would say is speak to him yourself, if you wish to do so. On the question of marriage, I understand it is not lawful for a Jew to marry a Muslim in Israel. I do not agree with that either. I am lucky, I am an atheist; I can start with a clean sheet on all these things. Therefore it makes me acceptable to most Londoners.
Q107 Chairman: Thank you, Mr Livingstone. We must draw the session to an end now. Sir Iqbal?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: There is one very important point ----
Q108 Chairman: Not, please, further on the Qaradawi question, because I think we have had quite enough.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: One issue that perhaps did not come up in my answers early on was the various concerns have been expressed by different members, on earlier questioning as to what has really caused this tragic event on 7/7 and how do we know as to what needs to be done in terms of trying to find out.
Q109 Chairman: You may well be right that there are important issues which we have not touched on, either directly in questions to you or in the sessions earlier, but we allowed ourselves three hours and I think we need to draw the session to a close.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Just one sentence.
Q110 Chairman: One sentence.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: We have actually requested the Government to carry out a public inquiry on this incident, and we have already submitted the papers to the Department and will be sending copies to members along with other papers as well.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Can I say that as it happens this Committee does not have any members representing London constituencies but we are all Londoners for at least part of the year. On 6 July we all saw, if we had not seen it before, the video about London which was presented as part of the successful Olympic bid, and I think we would all agree that portrayed the multi-racial, multi-cultural, open city that we live in for part of the year we are all anxious to see, and all of our efforts today and those who have given evidence to us today in different ways are working to make sure that is the reality of the future of this great city. Can I thank both our witnesses and the others we had earlier today.