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Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to her new post. Is she aware that, despite the shrill voices to the contrary, her resolute approach to the possibility of introducing new counter-terrorism legislation and to ensuring that that is done in a thoughtful and careful manner is also warmly welcomed?

Jacqui Smith: I thank my hon. Friend for those words. It is certainly my aim, as it was having re-read the statement that my right hon. Friend made on 7 June, to carry forward plans for new counter-terrorism legislation on the basis of building consensus, as far as possible, and consulting as widely as possible on that.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I, too, congratulate the Home Secretary and all those involved in dealing with all three incidents. I wish to raise a narrow issue of airport security, on which I have had a series of exchanges with BAA. Queues of people waiting for security apparatus are choice targets in Iraq and a number of other areas. With the holiday season almost upon us, may I urge the Home Secretary to tell airport operators that allowing large queues to develop at security apparatus represents a huge threat to public safety?

Jacqui Smith: I am sure that airport operators will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point. As we have introduced increased security around airports in this short period, it has been important to work closely with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. Work is also under way, alongside the Department for Transport, to examine the details of our implementation of security arrangements in airports. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman’s comments in mind as we take that forward.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab): May I first congratulate my right hon. Friend on her appointment? I lived through the terror of the Blitz during the second world war and I remember the stalwart courage of the British people in defying the Nazis. They went about their lives as normally as possible. The current generation of Britons will defy the present terrorists, just as their forebears defied the Luftwaffe’s terrorism. The message that the House must convey, primarily to those who are our enemies now, is that we will not tolerate the sort of activities in which they are involved and that we are as one, irrespective of our politics, in opposing them. We will support our people’s indomitable spirit in opposing terrorism.

Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend and I did not always see eye to eye in my previous job, but I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments today.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): I congratulate the Home Secretary on her appointment and wish her well, especially given the enormous task before her. Given the international perspective of the terror attacks, has she had any contact with overseas countries in the past three or four days? If so, which ones?

Jacqui Smith: Yes, I have had the opportunity to speak twice to my United States counterpart, Secretary Chertoff. I have also spoken to the deputy commissioner
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of the European Union and my Spanish counterpart. I have plans to speak to other European representatives later today and early this week. In all those conversations, the consistent messages of support and the absolute commitment to working together throughout the international community to tackle terrorism have been very encouraging.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): May I echo the comments of hon. Members throughout the Chamber to my right hon. Friend, and say that the calm and confident way in which she appeared on television has reassured the British people throughout our land? Everywhere I have been over the weekend, people have praised that. In her statement, she said that expenditure on counter-terrorism had doubled since 2001. Some of us believe that there should be a substantial increase in expenditure on counter-terrorism preparations. She will have much support from hon. Members of all parties in her discussions on the comprehensive spending review to secure that necessary funding.

Jacqui Smith: I thank my right hon. Friend. The increase in resources that the Government have already put in place for counter-terrorism is symbolic of the priority that we give that work. I am sure that that will continue as we go through the next comprehensive spending review.

Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): The attack on Glasgow airport suggests that ports and airports throughout the country are likely to continue to be terrorist targets. In the circumstances, does the Home Secretary agree that it is essential that police forces throughout the country should be able to maintain full complements of dedicated security posts? Will she work closely with police forces and police authorities to ensure that the funding regime is in place to secure that?

Jacqui Smith: Yes, I can give that commitment. It is obviously important that chief constables can make appropriate operational decisions for their areas. However, given the increased investment and reviews that are already going on, I think that I can give the hon. Gentleman that commitment.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on the manner in which she has reacted in her first few days in office. Does she agree that we all have the responsibility to remain united—as united as we are today—against these murderous psychopaths who want to bring death and destruction to our country? Will she reject once again any idea whatever that these fanatics have any genuine grievance whatever to justify inflicting such terror on our people?

Jacqui Smith: I thank my hon. Friend and I wholeheartedly agree with what he said. I am very encouraged by the clear views expressed around the House today that there is no justification for terrorism. That will continue to be my strong view.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): What links this event to that of 9/11, Bali, Madrid and indeed 7 July is the very sad fact that all these terrorists were trained on the Pakistani-Afghan border. Does the
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Home Secretary agree that until we eradicate these camps, we will continue to have threats not only from home-grown terrorists but from abroad? If she does agree, what steps is she willing to take to achieve that?

Jacqui Smith: I know that the hon. Gentleman has personal experience relating to this issue. I agree that there will continue to be a need to deal with the elements that fuel terrorist activity—either domestically or internationally. There is a whole range of ways to deal with that problem, from rooting out the radicalisation of people who are likely to commit terrorist acts, through to action that we need to take with our international partners to ensure that the international inspiration for terrorism in this country is also addressed. That is why there is such strong commitment across the Government—including all my ministerial colleagues—to ensuring that we address every cause of terrorism. We are committed to achieving that.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): May I follow up that particular question? Does the Minister recall that during the IRA bombing of this country, the then Government placed restrictions on the freedom of movement of people both ways across the Irish sea? Is she considering similar measures to restrict people from this country going to those countries where there are known terrorist training camps and—even more importantly—to prevent them from returning to these shores?

Jacqui Smith: I can tell my right hon. Friend that we do not have specific plans for putting those sorts of restrictions in place, but it is important to keep all those measures under review. That is part of what we are doing both in reviewing legislation and other work that we are taking forward.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Is there a danger that placing restrictions on car access to Heathrow will divert travellers and terrorist attention to the tube, where there are no body or bag searches and where there cannot be restrictions on vehicle proximity to stations?

Jacqui Smith: It is obviously the case that those people who are expert in protective security—I believe that we are very fortunate in this country in having such considerable expertise, particularly in the Metropolitan police—need to keep under review where the immediate threat is most likely to come from and the most appropriate methods for dealing with it. We also have to continue, as I suggested earlier, to adopt the most appropriate and suitably robust approach to protecting the public, while also enabling life to go on and business to be able to carry out its operations.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I, too, commend the Home Secretary for her response—and, indeed, the response at all levels—to this incident. Does she agree that, apart from the murderous intent to inflict pain and injury on innocent victims, the intention of terrorism is also to disrupt people’s everyday lives and to disrupt the economy of our country? In that respect, while there must be a review
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of security, will she assure the House that it will be proportionate and risk based and that we will send a very clear signal to terrorists that we will not give in to terrorism at any level in this country?

Jacqui Smith: I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend. He is absolutely right that, as I suggested in my statement, the strongest response to the terrorist threat is for the public to be vigilant but to carry on living their lives as law-abiding citizens, which they have the right to do in this country. All the measures that we adopt with respect to protection will take that important balance into account.

Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): I should like to take the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) a little further. Two years ago, the tube was attacked, and I have no doubt that it remains a vulnerable and desirable target for our enemies. A series of recommendations was made to improve tube safety, not least relating to the ability of the police and emergency workers to communicate between surface and tunnel. That is still not in place two years later. Why not?

Jacqui Smith: I know that the hon. Gentleman has considerable expertise in fighting terrorist activity. I understand that progress has been made, particularly in respect of the Airwave contract and the communications issues that he has identified. Given my relative newness to this post, however, I will write to him with more details, and talk to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport about this matter.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friend to her new post. Her measured tones, and those of the Prime Minister, over the past few days have been helpful in ensuring that British Muslims know that they are not on trial as a community. That is an important message. She has emphasised that consultation on these matters will, quite rightly, take place across the Floor of the House. Will she ensure that all sectors of the British community are involved in that consultation, to avoid the kind of knee-jerk reactions that can stigmatise whole communities of British Pakistanis, British Muslims and, indeed, anyone else?

Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said earlier, regardless of who is involved in the individual incidents, I understand that, at a time like this, the Muslim community can feel under pressure as a result of the incident and the publicity around it. My hon. Friend is right to say that that places on us a responsibility to consult as widely as possible as we take forward any action, and particularly as we consider legislative options. I have emphasised the consultation that will happen in the House and in the political sphere, but he is right to say that it also needs to include representatives of all our communities and members of the public. We need to give some thought to how we can ensure that that happens.

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): I join other hon. Members in welcoming the sure-footed way in which my right hon. Friend is approaching her demanding new role. In the broader review of strategy, will she take a careful look at the advice that has been
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given about flights over certain parts of London, including the City of London and this House, and over other symbolic sites in the country, to ensure that it meets the level of threat that is now emerging?

Jacqui Smith: It is obviously important, when considering the level of threat, to look across a whole range of sectors to determine the appropriate response. I am sure that that will be happening in the areas that my hon. Friend has referred to.

Margaret Moran (Luton, South) (Lab): I should like to add my thanks, and those of the Muslim community leaders in my constituency, whom I met yesterday, for the calm and considered way in which the new Home Secretary has dealt with this issue. Will she join me in thanking the staff of London Luton airport and the Bedfordshire police for the speedy and effective way in which they have managed to achieve security and efficiency of flights out of that airport? She might be aware, however, that there has been a dispute over the payment of the policing of Luton airport. Will she look at that—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must stop the hon. Lady.

Jacqui Smith: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend that the work in all our airports, and all our police forces, has been exemplary. I am sure that the work at Luton airport deserves congratulation. I will undertake to look at the point that she has raised about funding. If she would like to provide me with more information about it, I will look at it in detail.

Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): Doubtless, consideration was given on Friday and Saturday as to whether Saturday evening’s concert at Wembley organised by their Royal Highnesses in memory of their mother should go ahead or whether it was too much of a target. Absolutely the right decision was taken to ensure that it went ahead. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking Chief Inspector Mark Toland and the Wembley police force for their sterling work in ensuring that security was of the highest level while making sure that the inconvenience to my constituents in the local area was kept to a minimum? May I also say to her—

Mr. Speaker: Order. We are running over time as it is.

Jacqui Smith: My hon. Friend is right. One of the tasks, of course, during the incidents was to look
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carefully at the events that were happening. I agree that the decision to carry on with that event, with the necessary security, was very important. It symbolised the fact that events carried on across the country, undeterred by the threat of terrorism. I was a little busy at the time, but I have the concert recorded at home and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to see it.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I join every other Member of the House in congratulating my right hon. Friend on the proper, measured and strong way in which she has dealt with the issue. She rightly said that the Muslim and Asian communities have condemned what has happened. Will she give us an assurance that she will consult them fully before any proposals are brought before the House? In particular, will she ensure that there is no adverse impact on the wider Asian community as a result of anything that she proposes in the future? Could she reiterate that this is a—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Jacqui Smith: I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend. It will be a priority, as we introduce proposals and develop the legislation, to consult as widely as possible across all the communities of this country. It is precisely to be able to protect those communities that we will introduce this counter-terror legislation.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): I join my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) in saying how wonderfully our emergency services conducted themselves for the people not only of Glasgow, but of London, Liverpool and Cheshire—it makes me proud to be British. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that when information is given out at such times of crisis, Members of Parliament, particularly when their jurisdiction is involved, are contacted by the relevant services and by the authorities in charge of places such as airports?

Jacqui Smith: I am sure that my hon. Friend will understand that, quite often, events move very quickly, and it is necessary to put measures in place as quickly as possible, but I will certainly undertake when such events happen to do my best to keep informed, and to ask the police to keep informed, civic representatives and particularly MPs.

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Floods (England)

4.37 pm

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): With permission, I should like to give the House an update on the serious flooding that has affected large parts of England and which will continue to have an impact for some months to come.

The flooding has claimed at least four lives, and the circumstances of three other reported deaths are still being investigated. I am sure the whole House would wish to express its profound sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones.

The Environment Agency currently has in place three severe flood warnings, 25 flood warnings and 55 flood watches in Yorkshire, the midlands, Lincolnshire and elsewhere. All the severe flood warnings are on the River Don in Yorkshire, where flood waters have not yet receded, despite considerable progress as a result of pumping. More than 300 people remain in temporary shelters, although many more have had to leave their homes and are in other temporary accommodation. The Environment Agency believes that it may be some days before the full all-clear can be given in those areas, and I should like to echo its warnings about the dangers of people going into flood waters unnecessarily. Police presence has been stepped up to counter fears about theft from properties, although, thankfully, there have been few actual cases.

Across the country significant efforts have been made by the Environment Agency and emergency services, with military assistance, to avert the risk of flooding to properties. The House will be aware that pumping of water from the Ulley reservoir has been under way for a number of days and has significantly reduced the risk of the dam collapsing. Work continues to shore up a flood bank to protect properties at Bentley, near Doncaster, and to remove water at Toll Bar and in Hull and the surrounding areas. In many areas, the worst of the immediate flooding has passed and clean-up operations are well in hand.

Fortunately, the heavy rainfall at the weekend has not added significantly to the flooding, and the weather forecast for the next few days is consistent with continued falls in river levels. However, further heavy rainfall is predicted for next weekend and I must caution that, with saturated ground and very high groundwater levels in some areas, further flooding might occur. The Environment Agency is working hard to ensure that all flood defence works and control structures are fully operational, including flood forecasting and warnings. Water levels in flood storage areas are being reduced as quickly as possible to allow capacity for any future flood flows. The emergency services are fully prepared to respond to any future emergency, with military support as required. I encourage the public to seek advice and to use the Environment Agency floodline or website.

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