Counter-terrorism - Home Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. Since the events of 11 September 2001, UK counter-terrorism policy has changed immeasurably. The pace of that change was increased again following the events of 7 July 2005. In their written evidence to this inquiry the Government informed us that there had been six foiled terrorist plots since April 2010.[1]

2. However, as the terrorist threat changes and evolves, so too must British counter-terrorism policy. The changes to the threat are not gradual, they are not predictable and their solutions are not always obvious. In the past three years the Arab Spring has had an unforeseeable impact on the threat landscape as there has been an increase in ungoverned spaces and the large number of foreign fighters who have travelled to Syria, and might have been indoctrinated to present a threat. Indeed, far from a more benign threat picture, which we might have been hoped for after thirteen years of intensive counter-terrorism operations, the situation today seems more complex. The threat from terrorism has dramatically changed since 2001. Today there are more Al Qa'ida inspired terrorist groups than in 2001, spread across a wider geography, with a more diverse and evolving set of capabilities. A common feature among these terrorist groups is that the UK features as a primary target. We have included a full threat assessment as an annex to this report.

3. We took evidence on a wide range of issues, focusing primarily on three elements of our terms of reference for this inquiry:

  • Whether the UK has sufficient capability to detect, investigate and disrupt terrorist threats.
  • The effectiveness of the Government in working with foreign Governments and Multi-lateral organisations to counter terrorist threats at home and abroad.
  • Whether the UK effectively supports allies in building capacity to investigate and prosecute terrorists based overseas.

We would like to thank everyone who assisted us with this inquiry: those who gave evidence to us; officials from the Kenyan and British Governments who we met in Nairobi; and Google and YouTube, who hosted a seminar on counter-radicalisation narratives for us. We would also like to thank our special adviser, Charlie Edwards, of the Royal United Services Institute.

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Prepared 9 May 2014