Appendix: Conclusions of the Home Affairs
Committee's 2014 Report on Counter-terrorism
Conclusions and recommendations from Home Affairs
Committee, Seventeenth Report of Session 2013-14, Counter-terrorism,
1. The number of UK citizens and Westerners travelling
to fight in foreign conflicts has reached alarming levels unlike
anything seen in recent years. We require an immediate response
targeted at dissuading and preventing those who wish to go to
fight from going; helping countries who are key to intercepting
those who are entering Syria, and ensuring those who return do
not present a danger to the UK.
2. We are alarmed by the relative ease by which foreign
fighters appear to be able to cross the border into Syria. It
is the responsibility of the international community to assist
transit countries, and the UK must offer practical support to
those countries in securing their borders. We have been impressed
by the efforts made to prevent football hooliganism in foreign
countries by sending "spotters" to help pick out those
at risk of committing criminal acts and believe similar practical
help would be beneficial in the fight against terrorism. We recommend
that the Government maintain representation from the UK Counter
Terrorism command to help the Turkish authorities identify those
who are at risk of crossing the border into Syria intending to
fight and make available any relevant intelligence to the Turkish
authorities that may be beneficial. The Government should also
work with transit countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan
to better establish who is likely to be travelling for genuine
3. The Government needs a clear strategy for dealing
with foreign fighters on their return, which may include help
to come to terms with the violence they have witnessed and participated
in, as well as counter-radicalisation interventions. We are concerned
that their experiences may well make them vulnerable to Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder thereby increasing their vulnerability to radicalisation.
We recommend that the Government implement a programme, similar
to Channel, for everyone returning to Britain where there is evidence
that they have fought in Syria. The engagement in this strategy
should be linked to any legal penalties imposed on their return.
In developing the strategy the Government must work with mental
health practitioners and academia to ensure that the programme
best integrates those returning from conflict zones such as Syria.
4. The increasingly diverse and dispersed nature
of the threat makes capacity building a front-line defence against
a changing threat landscape. We note that the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office's budget is limited by available resources but given the
importance of capacity building to the Government's counter-terrorism
efforts we look to the OSCT and the FCO to reassure us that the
Counter-Terrorism Fund will be maintained at current levels in
this and the next financial year. In the light of the announcement
that the Prime Minister is considering using some of the UK's
aid budget on peace keeping and other defence-related projects,
we recommend that within the definitions of Overseas Development
Aid, money could be used to increase resource for capacity building
5. We accept that some of the UK's capacity building
programmes are sensitive but we believe that greater transparency
about how much the Government spends on capacity building overseas
and who funds these programmes (i.e. fully by UK Government or
jointly between UK and EU) is crucial for accountability.
6. We recommend that the Government raise the issue
of Interpol databases as part of discussions around counter-terrorism
at the next EU Justice and Home Affairs Council and encourage
others to utilise the tools at their disposal.
7. Interpol is an international policing organisation
with a proven record of success and should be widely supported.
We recommend that the Government take the lead in working with
Interpol and the UK's international partners to create an international
operational platform supporting terrorist investigations. The
UK should use its pivotal position in the G7 to ensure that this
change is achieved. Whilst UK policing may lack sufficient resources
to supply a significant number of staff to such a platform, we
also recommend the Government consider offering to host the permanent
base of the platform.
THE UK'S RESPONSE TO THE TERRORIST THREAT
8. The withdrawal of passports is a vital tool in
preventing UK citizens from travelling to foreign conflicts. We
understand the need to use the prerogative power to withdraw or
withhold a citizen's passport. Given that the estimates of foreign
fighters are in the low hundreds, we are surprised that it has
only been used 14 times since April 2013 and recommend that, in
all appropriate circumstances where there is evidence, the power
is utilised as an exceptional preventative and temporary measure.
However, we note that its use is not subject to any scrutiny external
to the executive. We recommend that the Home Secretary report
quarterly on its use to the House as is currently done with TPIMs
and allow the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation to
review the exercise of the Royal Prerogative as part of his annual
9. We have grave concerns about how effective the
deprivation of mono-citizenship powers will be. Drafting legislation
on the basis of an individual case lessens the impact of the legislation
because the exact circumstances are unlikely to repeat themselves.
We support the Minister's commitment to the power being used sparingly.
We recommend that the Government endeavour to use the power only
when the person subject to the decision is outside the UK.
10. It is deeply worrying that anyone who is subject
to a TPIM, or those who were subjects of control orders, can abscond
with relative ease. We recommend that a review of the types of
measures placed upon subjects needs to be conducted to ensure
that enough is being done to prevent absconsion.
11. So far there have been no jury convictions of
breaches of TPIMs or Control Orders and the CPS needs to bear
this in mind when bringing prosecutions. We recommend that the
Government and Crown Prosecution Service produce specific guidance
on investigating and prosecuting breaches. The continued failure
to secure a conviction undermines the system of TPIMs.
12. Many breaches of a TPIM order are minor infringements
which might plausibly have happened inadvertently. It is therefore
right that the CPS does not prosecute every single breach, considering
the cost to the public purse and the difficulty of convincing
a jury of the materiality of the alleged breach without being
able to explain the basis on which the relevant restriction was
included in the order. It is worth noting that no prosecution
has been successful following a not-guilty plea and in only one
case has the accused pleaded guilty. In the case of the tag tampering
trial, it is of serious concern that the prosecution was discontinued.
Deliberately tampering with a tag must be viewed as an attempt
to abscond and we recommend that the Home Office request independent
testing of the tags provided by G4S to definitively prove, as
they claim, a tag-tamper alert can only be caused through deliberate
actions. This will enable the Home Office to present reliable
evidence to the court that such an alert cannot be caused inadvertently.
Given that five prosecutions for tag tampering have been withdrawn
or collapsed it is vital that both the public and TPIM subjects
understand the extent to which it might or might not be possible
for a tag-tamper alert to be innocently caused.
13. It is essential that the Government engages with
those placed on a TPIM whilst they are subject to the control
and not only afterwards. It is a missed opportunity not to implement
a de-radicalisation programme until the subjects are free of the
measures. We recommend that all TPIM subjects are placed on a
graduated scheme, which commences concurrently with the measures,
with the sole purpose of engagement and de-radicalisation. We
accept that the anonymity order may cause difficulties in terms
of liaising with the local community when seeking support for
that process. However, we believe that the Government should engage
with community leaders who are working with prisoners and ex-prisoners
who have been radicalised in order to design a programme which
would be suitable for TPIM subjects. Such a programme should take
account of the different narratives of radicalisation. Due to
the constraints placed on a subject it is unlikely that they will
be eager to engage with the state or official parts of society.
It is disastrous, therefore, for a subject to left without a constructive
path towards reintegration following the end of the measures.
14. The Government must ensure that an exit strategy
is started as soon as the TPIM is imposed upon a subject. We recommend
a continuation of the de-radicalisation engagement programme which
they would have started under the TPIM which evolves into a more
practical scheme enabling the former subject to reconnect with
society through work or education.
15. We welcome the progress made by internet companies
such as Google (who own YouTube) in the work they are doing to
promote counter narratives. We commend the work by the creators
of Abdullah-X and note the importance of peer-led education. Given
the role that social media is playing in the dissemination of
extremist messages we hope that other large multi-national social
media companies status to support terrorist actions. We recommend
that he assess the response to such abuse and suggest changes
which will improve the ability of the authorities to tackle terrorist
financing whilst ensuring that law-abiding charities can continue
their vital work.
16. The National Crime Agency was established as
a national mechanism as part of the changing landscape of policing.
Like all new organisations, it is still seeking to establish a
strong identity and its own remit. For instance, we remain concerned
that the NCA does not have full operational capacity in Northern
Ireland. The Metropolitan Police have a wide remit which has many
complexities and the current difficulties faced by the organisation
lead us to believe that the responsibility for counter-terrorism
ought to be moved to the NCA in order to allow the Met to focus
on the basics of policing London. The work to transfer the command
ought to begin immediately with a view to a full transfer of responsibility
for counter-terrorism operations taking place, for example within
five years after the NCA became operational, in 2018. When this
takes place, it should finally complete the jigsaw of the new
landscape of policing.
17. Both members of the public and those in private
enterprises have to ensure that vigilance is constant, this is
especially important in areas where crowds of people congregate.
Those in charge of areas visited by high numbers of people (such
as shopping centres) must ensure that they have adequate security,
surveillance and response plans. Ensuring public safety cannot
be the sole purview of the counterterrorism command and the security
service, it is a responsibility in which all UK citizens and companies
take a share. We note that the British Council of Shopping Centres
have updated their guidance following the Westgate attack. We
recommend that all police forces ensure that local shopping centres
have received this guidance and put in place and test a Response
OVERSIGHT OF THE SECURITY AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES
18. We do not believe the current system of oversight
is effective and we have concerns that the weak nature of that
system has an impact upon the credibility of the agencies' accountability,
and to the credibility of Parliament itself. The scrutiny of the
work of the security and intelligence agencies should be not the
exclusive preserve of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
Whilst we recognise the importance of limiting the access to documents
of a confidential nature, we believe that as the relevant departmental
select committee, we ought to be able to take oral evidence from
the head of the security service. Engagement with elected representatives
is not, in itself, a danger to national security and to continue
to insist so is hyperbole. There are questions about the accuracy
of information provided to the House by the security and intelligence
agencies in the past, particularly in 2003. As future decisions
on warfare look likely to be determined by votes of the members
of the House of Commons, there is heightened importance in ensuring
that the House is accurately informed in future.
19. Furthermore we recommend that the Commons membership
of the Intelligence and Security Committee should be elected like
other select committees and that the Chair, who should always
be a member of the Commons, ought to be subject to election of
the whole House, as is the case for Select Committees from the
start of the next parliament. We further recommend that the Chair
should always be a member of the largest opposition party.
20. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal is the only
body which can investigate individual complaints against the security
and intelligence agencies and actions taken under the Regulation
of Investigatory Powers Act. It ought to command public confidence
in its actions. For there to be public confidence there must first
be public understanding of the work of the Tribunal. We recommend
that the if the Investigatory Powers Tribunal are unwilling to
voluntarily produce a detailed annual report on their work, that
legislation be amended so that they are required to do so. Such
an annual report should, at the very least contain the number
of cases it has received and the outcome of cases determined in
that year with comparable data for the previous four years. We
also recommend that the data be broken down to show which agency
the complaint was against.
21. It is unacceptable that there is so much confusion
around the work of the Intelligence Services Commissioner and
the Interception of Communications Commissioner. We recommend
that as a matter of urgency data is collected on how many applications
there were under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and
how many people were subsequently subject to an application. Furthermore,
the fact that the Intelligence Services Commissioner cannot tell
us what percentage of consolidated guidance cases or disciplinary
proceedings he has examined is concerning.
22. We have serious doubts that either the Interception
of Communications Commissioner role or the Intelligence Services
Commissioner role should be part-time. We are also concerned that
the extent of the Intelligence Services Commissioner's staff is
one personal assistant. The fact that less than 10% of warrants
which allow intrusion in to the private lives of individuals are
examined is concerningwe believe this figure ought to be
at least 50%, if not higher. We recommend that the Commissioners
are made full-time positions and that their resources are increased
to allow them to examine half of the requests for information.
23. All parts of the oversight system need to do
more to improve public confidence in their work. We recommend
that each of the Commissioners and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal
develop an outreach strategy which ought to be published as part
of their annual reports along with details of how they have tried
to fulfil the objective of improving knowledge of their work.
24. The security and intelligence agencies are staffed
by brave men and women who in many cases risk their lives to protect
this country. They deserve our gratitude and they deserve to be
honoured for their work. The best way to honour them is by ensuring
that there is no need to question their integrity and, in order
to prove this, there must be adequate scrutiny of their actions.
The current system of oversight belongs to a pre-internet age,
a time when a person's word was accepted without question. What
is needed is a scrutiny system for the 21st century, to ensure
that sophisticated security and intelligence agencies can get
on with the job with the full confidence of the public.
25. It is essential that the legal position be resolved
clearly and promptly. It is currently unclear whether CSPs are
obliged to store communications data as they were previously,
or indeed if they are allowed to, because of the Data Protection
Act. It is also unclear if the Home Office will continue to pay
CSPs for their work on communications data.
26. Given the criticism which the Regulation of the
Investigatory Powers Act is subject to, we believe that the legislation
is in need of review. We recommend that a Joint Committee of both
Houses of Parliament should be appointed in order to hold an inquiry
with the ability to take evidence on the Act with a view to updating
it. This inquiry would aim to bring the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act up to date with modern technology, reduce the complexity
(and associated difficulty in the use of) the legislation, strengthen
the statistical and transparency requirements and improve the
oversight functions as are set out in the current Act. We recommend
that the inquiry address the areas of concern raised with us concerning
communications data and the oversight of Section 94 of the Telecommunications