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“To harness a much wider range of expertise and experience from outside government and help us plan for the future, we are inviting business, academics, community organisations and military

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and security experts from outside government to join a new national security forum that will advise the recently constituted National Security Committee.

“Having accepted the recommendations of the Intelligence and Security Committee—I thank it for its work—to separate the position of chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee from policy adviser to the Government, and appointed Mr Alex Allan as chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, I can confirm that, as proposed by the Butler review, his responsibility will be solely to provide Ministers with security assessments formulated independently of the political process.

“We will immediately go ahead to introduce a resolution of both Houses, in advance of any future legislation, that will enshrine an enhanced scrutiny and public role for the Intelligence and Security Committee. This will lead to more parliamentary debate on security matters, public hearings on the national security strategy and, as promised, greater transparency over appointments to the committee, so that the committee can not only review intelligence and security but perform a public role more akin to the practice of Select Committees in reporting to and informing the country on security matters.

“Emerging from all the experience and lessons learnt of the past decade is the clear conclusion that we are at our strongest when we combine the resources of our military, police and security and intelligence services with effective diplomacy, and when we work closely with international partners to confront the new global challenges and bring about change. This approach emphasises the importance of strengthening our key diplomatic and military alliances with: the United States, our strongest bilateral partner; NATO, the cornerstone of our security; our central role at the heart of an outward-facing European Union; and our long-lasting and deep commitment to the Commonwealth and to working through international institutions.

“Britain will be at the forefront of diplomatic action on nuclear weapons control and reduction, offering a new bargain to non-nuclear powers. On the one hand, we will help them, and we have proposed the creation of a new international system to help non-nuclear states acquire the new sources of energy they need, including our proposed global enrichment bond; and we are today inviting interested countries to an international conference on these themes later this year.

“But in return we will seek agreement on tougher controls aimed at reducing weapons and preventing proliferation—first, by ending the stalemates on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and secondly, by achieving after 2010 a more robust implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the aim of accelerating disarmament among possessor states, preventing proliferation and ultimately freeing the world from nuclear weapons. A new priority to meet the dangers both of proliferation to new

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states and of material falling into the hands of terrorists will be tougher action—not just against potential proliferators such as Iran, but new action against suppliers—seeking to strengthen export control regimes and build a more effective forensic nuclear capability, to determine the true source of material employed in any nuclear device. Having already reduced the numbers of our operationally available warheads by 20 per cent and made our expertise available for the verifiable elimination of nuclear warheads, I confirm that we, Britain, are ready to play our part in further disarmament.

“As great a potential threat as nuclear weapons proliferation—and as demanding of a co-ordinated international response—is the risk from failing and unstable states. The national security strategy proposes a new departure, learning the lessons from recent conflicts ranging from Rwanda and Bosnia to Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. We will create a standby international civilian capability so that, for fragile and failing states, we can act quickly and comprehensively by combining the humanitarian, peacekeeping, stabilisation and reconstruction support that these countries need. In the same way that we have military forces ready to respond to conflict, we must have civilian experts and professionals ready to deploy quickly to assist failing states and to help rebuild countries emerging from conflict, putting them on the road to economic and political recovery. Britain will start by making available a 1,000-strong UK civilian standby capacity, which will include police, emergency service professionals, judges and trainers. I call on EU and NATO partners to set high and ambitious targets for their contributions.

“Between now and 2011, Britain is offering £600 million for conflict prevention, resolution and stabilisation work around the world, including in Israel and Palestine, Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya and the Balkans. As we assume our presidency of the UN Security Council in May, we propose an appeal by the UN Secretary-General for a co-ordinated crisis recovery fund that will provide immediate support for reconstruction, and to which Britain will contribute. Specifically, because we know the importance of peace in Darfur, I am announcing more help from Britain to train, equip and deploy African troops for the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping operation. Because of the importance of peace in Somalia, I can announce that Britain will help pay for 850 Burundian troops, as part of the African Union peacekeeping force there.

“Because of the critical importance of economic and political reconstruction complementing military action as the elected Afghan Government face down the Taliban, we propose an integrated civilian-military headquarters, headed by a civilian, which will be constituted in Helmand. In Iraq, where we have already brought electricity and water supplies to over 1 million citizens, we are stepping up our contribution to the work of long-term economic reconstruction by supporting the Basra Development Commission, led for the British by businessman

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Michael Wareing, who is doing an excellent job. To maximise our contribution to all the new challenges of peacekeeping, humanitarian work and stabilisation and reconstruction, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence is also announcing this afternoon that, as part of a wider review, the Government will examine how our Reserve Forces can more effectively help with stabilisation and reconstruction in post-conflict zones around the world. This year sees the 100th anniversary of the Territorial Army and I pay tribute to the service men and women in our reserves, who are such an essential element of our nation's defence.

“The security strategy published today also makes clear that, as well as being able to respond to crises as they develop, we must tackle the underlying drivers of conflict and instability—poverty, inequality and poor governance. Focusing on areas where poverty breeds conflict, we have quadrupled Britain’s aid budget and are pushing for bold international action in 2008 to meet the millennium development goals. On climate change and competition for natural resources, we are leading the way in arguing for a post-2012 international agreement and a new global fund to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change, including in the areas most under stress and therefore most likely to suffer instability as well as humanitarian disaster. On disease and global pandemics, our priority, with the World Health Organisation, is to improve early warning systems, increase global vaccine supplies and help put in place a more co-ordinated global response. Because of the importance of building stability and countering violent extremism in the Middle East and south Asia, we are increasing the number of Foreign Office staff in those regions by 30 per cent.

“Among all the security challenges to citizens of this country covered by this new strategy, the most serious and urgent remains the threat from international terrorism. The head of MI5 has said that today Britain faces 30 known plots, and 200 networks and around 2,000 individuals are being monitored. There have been 58 convictions for terrorism in just over a year, and the Home Secretary is announcing today that we will now have four regional counterterrorism units and four regional intelligence units, significantly increasing anti-terrorism police capability in the regions.

“Since the events of 11 September, on suspicion that they are a threat to national security or fostering extremism, 300 individuals have been prevented from entering the country. Now, backing up our unified border agency, compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals and our proposals in the Counter-Terrorism Bill that in unique circumstances we can extend detention to ensure full investigation of terror threats, the Government will match stronger action against those we suspect of stirring up tensions with collaborative work with our European partners to strengthen the EU rules on deporting criminals—a matter I will be discussing with President Sarkozy next week.

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“For action against terrorism and organised crime, it is important also to strengthen Europol and Eurojust, ensure rapid and secure exchange of information across borders, and speed up both the extradition of criminals and the confiscation of their assets. Starting with the United Arab Emirates, we are signing more agreements so that, once the assets of a convicted criminal are seized in one country with the assistance of the other, both countries will get a share of the proceeds.

“Our new approach to security also means improved local resilience against emergencies, building and strengthening local capacity to respond effectively to a range of circumstances from floods to possible terrorism incidents—not the old Cold War idea of civil defence, but a new form of civil protection that combines expert preparedness at a local level for potential emergencies with greater local engagement of individuals and families themselves. The Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary will report next month on additional measures we propose for young people, in colleges and universities, and in prisons and working with faith communities, to disrupt the promoters of violent extremism—all building upon the support of the vast majority of people, of all faiths and backgrounds, who condemn terrorists and their actions.

“The national security strategy shows a Britain resolute in the face of an unstable and increasingly uncertain international security landscape. It demonstrates the lessons we and other countries have learnt in recent years—that we must expand our policing, security and intelligence capacity, which we are doing; do more to prevent conflict, including by more effective international control of arms, which we are doing; strengthen the effectiveness of international institutions to promote stability and reconstruction, and we have put forward proposals on this today; and always be vigilant and never leave ourselves vulnerable, supporting, and at all times and wherever necessary strengthening, as we do today, our defences and civilian support for national security. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.57 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating this important Statement. The whole House shares an immense sense of debt to the police, security services and our Armed Forces for the often unseen, and sometimes never known, work that they do to protect our country.

The House will want to explore this new strategy, which is being billed as a unique event in national history, very closely. There is of course unparalleled expertise in this House on these matters.

Will the noble Baroness confirm that, while the Statement bore the mark of the Prime Minister’s hand, a central place in drafting the strategy as a whole was played by the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead? If so, the doctrine of parliamentary

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accountability would greatly reinforce the case for an early debate in this House.

Of course, we welcome the idea of a national security approach. Two years ago, my party said that it was time for a national security strategy. I am glad that the Prime Minister is now joining in this.

The noble Lord, Lord West, is also right to warn that issues affecting our national security—from terrorism, to cyber attack, to nuclear proliferation and energy security—are proliferating. The terrorist threat is certainly spreading multinationally. Incidentally, does this not confirm the warnings given to the Prime Minister and his colleagues by the Joint Intelligence Committee before the Iraq war that invasion would worsen the Islamist terrorist threat to us at home? What is the noble Baroness’s assessment of that? Does she accept that the result is as was then predicted? Is it not essential that we have a full inquiry into the whole saga of our engagement in the Iraq War and discover what lessons must be learnt?

On cyber attack, are the Government concerned that this country has been probed by cyber assaults on several occasions and that some suspect the involvement of national Governments? There are major threats: real, emerging and, perhaps, re-emerging. However, does the noble Baroness not see that a kitchen-sink Statement of this kind, which includes sending a civil commissioner to Helmand province, paying for 850 Burundian soldiers and re-announced council tax refunds for soldiers—all that detail—risks confusing the wood for the trees? Did not too many of the grave crises we faced in history arise from not looking in the right place at the right time? Are there not dangers in lumping long-term problems, such as global warming and disease, with council tax refunds?

A national security strategy will work only if it is put in place and carried out properly. Institutions in the UK need to be properly organised to deliver a national security approach. Therefore, we very much regret that the Prime Minister has missed the opportunity to establish a proper national security council. The existing committee clearly needs its authority reinforced. On the “Today” programme this morning, the noble Lord, Lord West, said that the Government had concluded that they did not need a national security council. However, the Prime Minister, in reply to my right honourable friend Mr Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today, said that he already had one—so which answer is correct?

It is essential that intelligence assessment and activity is, as the Government suggest, entirely independent of the political side, as was recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Butler, in his review. Never again must we see in this country the outrage of spin doctors e-mailing intelligence officers about their job. Will the noble Baroness confirm that Mr Carter, the Prime Minister’s new head honcho of spin, will have no access to security material?

The United Kingdom must retain the power, properly funded, to intervene abroad militarily when necessary, but we must understand that military operations abroad have consequences for security at home. Lately, that has been too often forgotten. At

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the same time, our Armed Forces have had to step in repeatedly—in the fuel crisis, in the foot and mouth outbreak and in firefighting—to bale out poor domestic planning.

Why have the Government still not banned Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group that poisons young minds against our country and way of life? Why did we not follow the Irish Government in barring Ibrahim Moussawi, a spokesman for Hezbollah and an apologist for terror, who recently conducted a lecture tour of the United Kingdom?

Why, despite the urgent need for secure borders, do Ministers still refuse to create a proper border police force with enforcement powers? Can the noble Baroness tell us why, in the new spirit of openness, the Government do not publish the report of the noble Lord, Lord West, which aims to improve security in crowded places and protect critical national infrastructure in the event of attack? I repeat my request to the noble Baroness, to which I am sure she will agree, that all these matters should be discussed in a government debate, one perhaps headed by the noble Lord, Lord West, and responded to by my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones.

I welcome two things. First, there was no mention of the maximum 42-day detention without trial. I assure the noble Baroness that there is no consensus about going beyond 28 days’ detention. The Government have tried to make a case for that, which we do not think has been met and will oppose the relevant provisions of the terrorism Bill when it arrives here. Secondly, the Government appear to be backing away from their wasteful and ineffective plan to impose ID cards on the British people. Biometric visas are one thing, but spending billions registering and tracking children and their grannies on trips to Portsmouth is quite another. Neither compulsory ID cards, nor the absurd totem of 40-day detention, featured in this massive security Statement. The noble Lord, Lord West, may shudder if the phone rings from No. 10 after he has been on the “Today” programme, but he should hold fast to his course. If he does so the whole House will be grateful for that.

4.05 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, I wish to be associated with the tribute of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to our police servicemen and to the security services. They do great service, in some danger, to the benefit of us all. The best tribute that we can pay them is to provide a system of political checks and balances, whereby Parliament shoulders its responsibilities in this matter and where we avoid, if possible, asking the Armed Forces and others to carry out actions based on misjudgments, misinformation and down-right folly. At the outset of a new strategy for security, the best tribute we can pay our Armed Forces, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, indicated, is to have an inquiry now into the origins of the decision-making that led us to the war in Iraq.

Parliament would have done its duty better five years ago if the Conservative Party had not been in the claque of cheerleaders for war and had done a

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proper job as the Opposition by questioning Ministers. Be that as it may, the time is now more than right for such an inquiry and the precedents are there.

On the basis of this new strategy, of course we welcome an overview of strategy in these areas. We are second to no one in our determination to give full security to the British people. The threats are new. The challenge to Parliament is still there. How we meet those threats properly and effectively, while retaining the civil liberties which make us, in a full sense, a liberal democracy, will put heavy responsibilities on Parliament. With a Statement of this length, there is certainly a need for an early and full debate, so that the expertise that exists in this House can be deployed on its contents, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said.

I have one point to make on the exchange in the other place. When my right honourable friend Nick Clegg raised the question of the missile defence system, apparently the Prime Minister said that that was nothing to do with the United Kingdom. That is an extremely disturbing response and reaction. Probably the Lord President would like to clarify that because we are deeply involved in it. There are reports in American papers saying that if the Poles back out, we will be next in line to get even more deeply involved in something on which there has not been a full national debate.

We welcome many of the proposed initiatives. Does the Lord President not agree that many of them will need the full co-operation of our colleagues in Europe for them to be at their most effective? The sooner we get Europe onto a working basis, looking at these real priorities for our own and for Europe’s security, the better. We welcome the initiatives for the failing states. In recent times, it has been absurd to find that there are hold ups because no helicopters are available anywhere in Europe, or some such thing. Matters have to be improved.

On parliamentary scrutiny of the security services, I welcome what is in this document. I realise that to my left is the brooding presence of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, who will no doubt intervene to tell us that this will bring the security services to rack and ruin. I disagree with her; the best and most effective security services are those that are exposed to proper parliamentary scrutiny. The lessons from this country and elsewhere are that the security services are at their least effective, and can do most damage to the countries that they serve, when they operate without proper accountability and scrutiny by the relevant parliament.

We also welcome the nuclear initiative, which I hope in part reflects the influence of my noble friend Lady Williams, who has been advising the Prime Minister on these matters and putting forward many of precisely these proposals. We worry about the contradiction between activity on soft diplomacy and the effect of our Foreign Office—we support that—and the fact that, as was demonstrated in a recent debate that we instigated in this House, we are cutting back on the Diplomatic Service. Although we may be

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putting diplomats into hotspots, we are cutting back in other areas. I was recently in Tunisia, where we are cutting back on diplomacy; in such posts we might find gaps in our information and influence.

We welcome the Statement so far as it goes. We want to know far more about the national security forum, which should not be seen by the Prime Minister as a safe option for Parliament. Security strategy must be examined most carefully in this House and the other place. We welcome the promise of more parliamentary debates. We need one on this document very soon to make sure that, although the defence of the realm remains the first responsibility of government, that responsibility is under the scrutiny of a very alert and active Parliament.

4.12 pm

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful for what I think was a general welcome for the strategy. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that I appreciate what the Conservatives put forward a couple of years ago. What is critical about the way in which this approach has been brought together is that it is the first time, as I said in the Statement, that we have pulled together the different strands to create this strategy. It is important that we look at it in the round. It is not for me to determine whether there is a debate; the usual channels must discuss that. I am sure that they have listened with great care to what both noble Lords have said about their desire to discuss the detail of the Statement and, more especially, that of the document. I am sure that they will have discussions to ensure that that debate can be facilitated if possible in whatever way works best for your Lordships’ House.

Both noble Lords requested an inquiry into Iraq; that also came up when my right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed the Statement in the Commons. I can only repeat what he said: that the time for an inquiry is not when the Ministry of Defence is—rightly—spending its resources on and looking to the theatres of Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but when the troops are back in the UK. It would be wrong to put resources into an inquiry at this point. Noble Lords may disagree with that but, frankly, the most appropriate time for that is when one is able to devote resources to doing it properly and effectively. I am sure that that will be taken forward.

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