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20 Jan 2010 : Column 313

The Prime Minister: The National Security Committee involves all the major Ministers in government, as well as the Chief of the Defence Staff, heads of the security agencies and all those who are charged with the security and protection of the country. On co-ordination between the different agencies, my right hon. Friend is right about the innovations that were introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts. Equally, we are moving forward, because the Cabinet Secretary is reporting on intelligence co-ordination and our three intelligence agencies are setting up joint teams to address potential threats upstream. That is where we can make major advances to prevent individuals about whom we are worried from ever reaching our shores. We continue to look at better ways of delivering improvements in the way we collect, share and use intelligence.

Mr. Brian Binley (Northampton, South) (Con): Iran is a major promoter of global terrorism, yet rumours of a prisoner swap to free Peter Moore continue. The timing of his release coincided with that of Qais al-Khazali, a senior figure in the group that kidnapped Mr. Moore, which is backed by Iran. Will the Prime Minister confirm that Mr. Moore was not part of a prisoner swap, and that Government services were not involved?

The Prime Minister: I can confirm what the Foreign Secretary said about the release of Mr. Peter Moore: that it was done in the way that he described, without any arrangement with the Iranian Government.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Aviation security requires combining specific measures at airports with international intelligence. Can the Prime Minister tell us what specific steps he will be taking to strengthen the weak spots globally in security and in intelligence? Could he also say what action he is taking on internet hate, such as Hamas's al-Fatah website, which is preaching hatred to children at this moment?

Mr. Speaker: Order. It is a little cheeky, if by no means unprecedented, for the hon. Lady to ask two questions, but I know that one answer from the Prime Minister will suffice.

The Prime Minister: On the second part of my hon. Friend's question, I can say that the Home Office is looking closely at that issue. On the question of airport security-I know that she is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Transport and does a great job in that regard-it is important to recognise that the measures we take at British airports will work best if they are accompanied by measures in other countries. That is why we are offering other countries that need help to develop greater security at their airports our help, training for their staff and advice on technology.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): It is now three years since the Government signed the e-Borders contract, but as the Prime Minister admitted, the programme still does not allow us automatically to deny boarding to passengers who are deemed a security risk. Will the Prime Minister explain why we are still waiting for an authority-to-carry function in the e-Borders programme, when the Government originally promised that it would be in place by October 2008?

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The Prime Minister: I read out the number of people who had been caught coming through our borders as a result of the success of the e-Borders system. The hon. Gentleman cannot claim that the system is a failure when large numbers of people have been prevented from entering this country, and when crimes have been detected as a result of what it is doing. I said that the targets we set for the e-Borders system would be completed by the end of 2010, and that is exactly where we are.

Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): What my right hon. Friend said about helping to achieve stability in Yemen will be welcomed by Yemenis in my constituency, who have long been concerned about the situation in their country. On Somalia, we all want to see the interim transitional Government succeed in bringing stability to the south, but they do not yet even control Mogadishu. Will he also continue the Government's engagement with the Government of Somaliland in the north, which for nearly 20 years has been a beacon of stability and democracy in the horn of Africa, and continue to reward that success?

The Prime Minister: I appreciate what my right hon. Friend is saying, and he speaks with a great deal of knowledge about what has happened in Africa over the years. We will work with all Governments against the terrorist threat. The real danger is that al-Qaeda can find areas where there is temporary or permanent instability, exploit that to make them their training ground, and cause chaos in the region around them. We are determined to work with like-minded Governments to prevent the terrorist threat from developing. I keep saying that we must expose extremism and back the reformers and moderates who want to show that the view of Islam as perverted by al-Qaeda is completely false.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): As someone with an airport in the heart of my constituency, I welcome the announcements that the Prime Minister has made today. However, does he share my concern-and is he shocked to hear-that Edinburgh airport, which is very close to his constituency, announced this week that it plans to abolish the post of head of security? Will he contact BAA and the Civil Aviation Authority to find out what is going on?

The Prime Minister: The important thing is that BAA and Edinburgh airport take their responsibilities for security seriously. I think that the hon. Gentleman and I are both agreed on that. Every airport in the country will be responding to the demand for tighter security measures, and I believe that if they are implemented properly the inconvenience to passengers can be minimised. The new measures and the new technology that are being introduced could, over time, make the transit of passengers not less fast, but in fact speed it up. That is a matter to be worked out over the next few months, but I shall obviously look into the case mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Azzam Tamimi, a preacher of hate who has boasted on the BBC about his support for suicide terrorist bombing and hatred of Jews, has been invited to speak on the university of Birmingham campus? Professor Eastwood, the university's vice-chancellor,
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defends that by saying that it is a matter of freedom of expression. Does the Prime Minister agree that freedom of expression, which is vital, is not the same as providing a platform for hate? We have to shut down those incubators of hate against our values and against the Jewish people.

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend raises an important point about how our universities will respond, over time, to an attempt by some people to use them as a breeding ground for extremist activity. We must always get right the balance between the academic freedom that is at the heart of what universities are about and the maintenance of security in our country. I know that most vice-chancellors want to play their part in helping us to do that.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon) (Con): On e-Borders, the Home Affairs Committee heard some impressive evidence quite recently that showed that introducing e-Borders in ferry ports attracted a number of fairly insurmountable practical and logistical problems. The Prime Minister now anticipates that the scheme will be in place by the end of the year. Has he overcome these practical problems-and if not, is there any point in closing the front door and leaving the back door open?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend the Minister for Borders and Immigration, who deals with these issues, says that coach operators are met regularly. We have dealt with the problems that they have raised as a result of the operation of the system, and these problems are perfectly capable of being worked out.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): I welcome what my right hon. Friend had to say, particularly about the importance of sharing intelligence with our close allies. Does he have any concern that the unwillingness of our courts to protect the secrets of our close allies might have an effect on their willingness to continue to co-operate at the very high level at which they have co-operated in the past?

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend speaks with some knowledge on these issues, and his membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which deals with these matters, is valued in the House. Of course these are issues about which we must be concerned.

Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): I acknowledge the serious threat against the United Kingdom from international terrorists, and any resolute action that is to be taken against them is welcome. However, the Prime Minister is also aware of the serious threat that continues in the United Kingdom from republican groups. I speak with reference to a young police officer who was the victim of attempted murder in my constituency, Peadar Heffron. He is a very courageous young police officer, who was standing in between us and terrorism. Will the Prime Minister assure this House that the Government will do everything within the United Kingdom to hunt down those responsible for that attack as well as taking action on international terrorists?

The Prime Minister: Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance that terrorism and violence cannot be justified in any circumstances. I followed the tragic case of this shooting and I hope that the officer can now
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recover. I know that he has had huge difficulties as a result of the injuries that he sustained. In no place and in no circumstances can extremist action and violence ever be justified.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Recognising that the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Britain are opposed to terrorism, is it not important to engage Muslim organisations and individuals in combating extremism, particularly, as has been said already, in universities and prisons where the hate merchants are doing their best to spread their notorious poison-anti-Semitism and racism in general?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At the heart of everything we do is the need to prevent the radicalisation of young people by organisations that wish to provide a perverted view of the Islamic religion and wish to exploit that to encourage people to commit violent and terrorist acts. I keep saying that we will do that by exposing the extremists. It is important, therefore, that people stand up against extremism in university campuses and wherever else it is practised. We must also back these reforming and moderate voices and give them the support they need to show young people that the ways of al-Qaeda and other organisations are the ways of violence, and are completely unacceptable.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Given that Abdulmutallab is known to have travelled through Addis Ababa on 7 December, what practical support and advice can the Government give to airports in those friendly middle eastern and African countries that act as regional airport hubs?

The Prime Minister: My understanding is that we are giving advice to those airports at the moment. We are in touch with some of them, including the one that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Prime Minister, in his answers, has recognised the dangers of feeding the propaganda agenda of terrorists. In his statement, he also referred to the need to intensify co-operation with the police and other agencies in other countries. Given that some of those countries will themselves have dubious regimes, and those agencies will have questionable reputations, how can he ensure that the character of that co-operation will not become a propaganda feed for subversives?

The Prime Minister: We have to be very careful in what we do. It is important that we support legitimate Governments and work with those elements that wish to discourage extremism at all times. It is very important that we build a coalition of countries that are prepared to take on al-Qaeda and other terrorist activity. I think the lesson of the Afghanistan campaign is the fact that 43 countries were prepared to come together to get rid of the Taliban and al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. The lesson from that, and from the conference held by the friends of Yemen next week, is that people are willing to come together to support countries in taking action against terrorism.

Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): As the new scanners start to be delivered, it is important that the maximum number of passengers can be processed through them. Will the Prime Minister therefore look at a system that is already in place at Manchester airport,
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under which if a passenger trips a scanner, they are automatically diverted into a separate channel for body search, thereby allowing other passengers to proceed without delay?

The Prime Minister: Yes, I think that is being piloted in Manchester, and we are looking at it very carefully. [Interruption.] The Minister of State for Transport is sitting next me, and he says this is one of the areas in which further research is being done.

Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): Last week the European courts ruled against the section 44 stop-and-search powers as applied by the Metropolitan police. Does my right hon. Friend agree that most of the citizens of our country wish those powers to be used to protect them and other members of the public, but they want to be absolutely sure that they are properly circumscribed, applied and monitored-and will he ask the Home Secretary to liaise with the head of the Metropolitan police force to ensure that that is the case?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend raises a very important point, but we are dealing here with a European judgment and the Home Secretary is currently reviewing it.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I am grateful for the excellent work the Government are doing on air travel and borders, but in our country we have the phenomenon of home-grown terrorists. Does the Prime Minister agree that we must be vigilant in protecting passengers, particularly those who travel into London on trains and the tube, as that is probably still the main threat?

The Prime Minister: We should be vigilant at all times. We know that terrorist groups would like, if they had the chance, to cause chaos in the United Kingdom. We know also that we have to improve at all times the security of our trains and our transport infrastructure, and the protection of people in public places. Lord West is co-ordinating the work that is being done to see what measures can be taken to improve security in all these areas, and we will continue to update our counter-terrorism strategy in the light of all the new information we have.

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Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): There is long-held concern about the weakness of Pakistan's Government, intelligence services and army to co-operate fully in dealing with terrorists and extremists. Does the Prime Minister believe that there has been significant improvement and progress in this area in the last 12 months, because it is still a great concern?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for all the work my hon. Friend has done in this area. It is important to recognise that at all times we are learning new lessons about how information can be shared, as well as about how it can be collected, and we are learning how we can deal with terrorist threats at an earlier stage by getting the information required. The greater sophistication of the exercise also requires greater co-ordination between the agencies, and the Cabinet Secretary is continuing to monitor how that co-operation can be enhanced over the next period of time.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Given the recent court decision in respect of control orders, may I endorse the call by the leader of the Liberal Democrats for the repeal of this legislation-but for completely different and opposite reasons? Does the Prime Minister not agree that, as some of his former Home Secretaries have recognised, part of this problem is the interweaving into the control order legislation of the Human Rights Act 1998, and that the best thing we could do would be to repeal that Act, in order to ensure that we deal with the control order issues through our own Westminster-based legislation, which gives fair process, due trial and habeas corpus? That would ensure that we both have fair trials and control certain people in the public interest.

The Prime Minister: I am surprised that we keep coming back to the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act that flowed from it. I think most people would agree that the ECHR, which was written by British lawyers- [Interruption.] Yes, some of them were Conservatives, actually. I think most people would agree that the ECHR has been a major advance, and I am sorry that we are returning to these old debates. The protection and safety of the individual is first and foremost in our mind.

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Digital Heritage

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

1.24 pm

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): I beg to move,

The transmission of our heritage has been revolutionised by the interconnected world of the internet. The greatest cultures of the world are being opened up to the hundreds of millions of people who use the internet. In countries with rich histories such as India, China, Brazil and Mexico, future generations will discuss, consider and analyse their heritage online. As H.G. Wells predicted and Pierre Lévy recently observed, humankind now has the capacity to build a universal digital memory. Many countries' cultural institutions have started on this grand project only in the past few years, however, and their work is often hampered by laws that were framed to deal with the problems of the analogue age.

Our system of copyright has for many years-perhaps even before the invention of the worldwide web-been creaking at the edges. It has been unable to cope with the explosive growth of creativity and content, as well as the creation of new technologies and the ever-increasing pace of change, particularly in the latter 20th century. The Gowers review identified many steps that could be taken to allow our great cultural institutions-such as the British Library, the British Film Institute and the National Archives-to curate their works in a manner that allows all the opportunities of the digital age to be grasped. The review highlighted that the UK had far more stringent restrictions on copying classes of work for archival and preservation purposes than other countries. It also made specific recommendations on how the UK could deal with orphan works-copyrighted works where it is either difficult or impossible to track down the rights holder.

It is reassuring to know that many of the issues raised by curators and copyright lawyers are addressed by proposals in the Digital Economy Bill, which is currently being discussed in the other place. However, the many wise heads in the other place who are applying their minds to the Bill are moving amendments at a baffling pace. We therefore do not know in what form the Bill will come to this House, although I must say that if Lords Erroll, Whitty, Razzall and Clement-Jones get their way, at least we can be reassured that it will be in much better shape when it reaches us.

The Digital Economy Bill is perhaps the most important Bill for the creative industries this decade, yet they know, as we all do in this House-

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is becoming procedurally incorrect. The purpose of this slot is to enable him to talk about his Bill, and he must concentrate on that. An allusion to another matter may be fine in context, but he must focus on the contents of his own Bill.

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