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Al-Qaeda will take any opportunity to exploit ungoverned space and instability. Whether the threat is in the Sahel or Somalia, or Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq or Afghanistan, we must support Governments and work with partners to address both the threat of attack and the underlying causes of extremism and instability. We have been working with the Yemeni Government for a number of years, helping to improve their law-enforcement, intelligence and security apparatus, to disrupt al-Qaeda, and to deny it a safe haven in Yemen for the future. We are also one of the leading donors to Yemeni development-our current commitment stands at £100 million by 2011. We recognise the need to strengthen further our partnership with countries in the region and beyond, so we can co-ordinate our efforts against al-Qaeda more effectively and provide greater support for the Yemeni people to reject violent extremism. International co-operation is critical to meeting what is a global threat. The coming together of the international community in London later this month to discuss Yemen will be an important step towards security there and across the globe.
It is important to reiterate that this was a failed attack by a Nigerian national on the United States, by someone who was refused entry to the United Kingdom and who it seems was radicalised after he left this country. However, there are lessons to be learnt by the international community and the measures I have outlined will provide the United Kingdom greater protection from terrorist attack. Along with our work overseas with our international partners, enhanced airport security and more thorough collation of intelligence, we will be able to strengthen our efforts to tackle the root causes of violent extremism and reduce the threat of future attack".
The failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day was a wake-up call. The terrorist threat continues to evolve, as he rightly said, and to adapt. As I have said before, following the Mumbai attacks, terrorists actively seek to understand and to counter the capabilities of our
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We must also expect that more and more countries will be used as a base by terrorists, particularly as pressure on them in Afghanistan and Pakistan increases. There will be a greater number of points of origin for people travelling to the UK that represent a danger to us and where precautions have to be taken. We welcome the assistance that the Government are providing to Yemen, but it is a pity that the Government made that announcement without telling our American partners that they were going to do so. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are identifying what other countries may need to counter terrorism and in capacity-building assistance? Again, I come back to the point about not always being in catch-up mode.
The Minister mentioned a number of measures that will be introduced to improve airport security, including greater searching of passengers by hand, the increased presence of sniffer dogs and the introduction of full-body scanners. He also mentioned that new restrictions had been introduced for transit passengers, but he did not say what those were. Will he do so? We accept that such additional measures should be put in place at airports, but why has the introduction of some, such as full-body scanners, been so long delayed? To my certain personal knowledge, that technology has been available for at least 10 years.
The Minister said that the first tranche of those scanners will be deployed within three weeks, but I know that at least one key industry player suggests that certain models will be available only between four and six months from now. One wonders how long we will have to wait to reduce vulnerability from that aspect of the threat. There are many months before we get coverage-which, I think everyone agrees, will not of itself necessarily deal with the threat encountered the other day, but will nevertheless reduce the scope for evasion. How long will it be before we have not just the introduction but proper coverage of body scanners at our major airports?
The core of the issue is surely to prevent dangerous passengers getting on to planes in the first place, and preventing them getting on to planes in other countries. Technologies can mitigate that threat, but they are not, we can agree, foolproof. It seems unlikely that the body scanners currently available would have picked up the substance which that young man had put around his body, so I am glad that the Minister agrees that we need a risk-based approach to passenger security checks. That must be intelligence-led, based on assessments of the threats posed by or from within particular countries and by particular travel routes, and on observation of suspicious behaviour. The US, for example, has designated certain flight routes for additional checks. Will the Government also do that?
The second key aspect is international co-operation in preventing the travel of dangerous or potentially dangerous individuals. The Minister referred to the robustness of the UK Border Agency's watch-list. As he said, it has a lot of names on it: 1.3 million. As
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A related point is the stark fact that the UK does not have a no-fly list, unlike the US. Does the UK have the information and the intelligence base sufficient to put in place such a list, which would then be genuinely useful? There is no point in having a list that does not necessarily have an information base behind it. Is enough advance passenger information being collected by the UK? As I understand it, our systems are not the same as those of the US. The Minister did not make entirely clear when the e-Borders programme will be fully operational. To what extent does he think that that will be helpful in this area?
How have the Government worked with the US Administration, who have conducted their own reviews, to ensure that their findings and the security standards and procedures they are introducing are consistent with developments here? The US is obviously our most important partner in many respects. Particularly on the electronic side, the Americans have been in the lead. It would be helpful to know the extent to which the US reckons that its collaborative partner and the one where the standards have to be met is the UK. What other countries are involved in, or are being drawn into, the findings of these reviews? It is clear that ultimately the issue is international.
This attempted attack also demonstrated the continued challenges posed by radicalisation. The lesson here is that academic institutions have to get real about this challenge and the terrorist threat. No one in this House wishes to see academic freedom reduced, but terrorism poses a threat to the very values that universities stand for, so educational establishments must help in identifying those who are vulnerable to extremism that can lead to violence. If the Minister were able to say what targeted support the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is lending, it would be helpful.
Finally, press reports suggest that the Prime Minister misled the public and the US about the information provided to the US authorities. I note that the Minister is not prepared to go into detail but he told us, correctly, that it is an established and accepted principle that the Government do not routinely comment on intelligence matters. Therefore, one has to wonder why the Prime Minister made these public remarks. It must be uncomfortable for the Government to be told by the White House that they made a mistake. Tackling the terrorist threat that we face requires public trust and confidence and the trust and confidence of international partners. These are the sort of remarks that risk damaging both.
These attacks remind us that the terrorist threat remains severe. We must continue to be vigilant and united to defeat it. The threat is posed by a small number of deadly extremists who do not speak for the majority of Muslims in this country or around the world. We must make this distinction. People of all faiths have been victims of terrorists over the past decade, and it must be our common endeavour across all communities to overcome them.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and for making it available beforehand. I do not propose to question him about security measures because I do not think he would wish to answer any questions. I realise that this is a very sensitive subject. However, one thing that I reflect on from reading and hearing the Statement is the fact that a great deal of emphasis is being placed on the airport authorities-on BAA-and on delays at airports and the inconvenience to passengers. I wonder to what extent consideration is being given to involving the long-haul airlines more closely. They have passenger manifests days or weeks in advance of the flight. To what extent are those manifests subject to checks to ensure that anybody who is in any way undesirable, and I use that word in its broadest sense, is prevented from flying? If the manifests are checked properly, we should have weeded out most of those who are a danger by the time that people are arriving at the airport. It seems that whatever sophisticated device we install at airports, it is bound to cause trouble, delay and frustration. I feel that we need to make a fresh breakthrough so that we can spot these people before they get in a queue at the airport.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments. The noble Baroness rightly said that this is a wake-up call. The need to adapt is constant because the nature of the terrorist threat changes constantly. Although she is absolutely right to say that some particular areas highlighted by the Detroit attack are important for future development-including body scanners, which she mentioned in particular-I would not accept that we have been slow to adapt. We constantly adapt and change our security apparatus at airports and our security apparatus nationally, including e-borders and the development of the watch-list, to meet the threat.
While none of us is complacent, I am glad to say that, in this particular case, this individual was not granted a visa to come and study in this country. The visa regime did work. The course for which Abdulmutallab applied was not at a properly accredited institution, so he did not get a visa to come to this country. We need to ensure that the robustness of our security regime continues to apply in this way case by case. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that this is a particular issue in respect of aviation security. That is a massive challenge for us. More than a quarter of a million passengers leave British airports every day. There are 110 flights to the United States alone. Ensuring that the system works well and does not fail is a massive undertaking. On behalf of the whole House, I should like to pay tribute to the security staff and the airlines. They make this system work day in, day out. There is also a considerable amount of public pressure in the situations with which they have to deal. They do a splendid job. However, we need constantly to improve the quality of the service that we provide as we deal with new threats.
The noble Baroness asked me a large number of questions and I will go through as many of them as I can. She asked about co-operation with the United States.
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I am satisfied that the degree of co-operation and co-ordination is high but we need continually to improve it. It is important, for example, to discuss, bilaterally and multilaterally, many of the issues to do with the regulation of new technology. It is no good us having enhanced security regimes in place at our airports if they are not in place at the airports from which flights are departing to come to this country. A good deal of international activity will therefore be required as well. We provide international aid, assistance and technical advice to countries where we think there may be vulnerabilities in airport security in order to ensure that proper standards are met. We are looking at how we can improve that technical advice and assistance and at how we can do so in a co-ordinated way with the United States and our partners. Good work is taking place in this area, but we need constantly to raise our game. We are not in any way complacent.
The noble Baroness asked me about e-borders. The e-borders scheme will be 95 per cent operational by the end of this year, so we are making very good progress on putting that in place. She asked me about transit passengers. Under the regulations which I brought into force on New Year's Day, transit passengers will henceforth be treated in precisely the same way as transfer passengers. All transit passengers-passengers on a flight which is continuing to a destination beyond the United Kingdom but who are not changing flight-will be subject to the full search and security regime applicable for transfer passengers. They will need to be searched, as will their hand baggage, and they will not be able to proceed on the flight until that has taken place. That will affect about 30 flights a week, so it will be a significant further enhancement of our security arrangements.
The noble Baroness asked me why body scanners had been delayed. We have been trialling body scanners. My noble friend Lord West, whom I am glad to see in his place, last year issued a paper to the industry with innovations and ideas on countering this terrorist threat and highlighting areas in which we wish to see enhanced collaboration between universities, the private sector and the Government on new technologies. A whole part of that document was on screening apparatus, so we have been highlighting this as a priority and trialling the technology.
Other countries were not way ahead of us. As we saw, the Netherlands has since Christmas Day brought full-body screening apparatus into operation where it
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The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, asked about the work that we do with airlines. There is already a well-established system for notifying passenger data in advance. The watch-list to which the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, referred is an integral part of the process of granting visas, and is in effect a device that allows people to travel or not to travel. Indeed, the watch-list and the data that come from airlines are fully integral to deciding whether people can enter the country and therefore fly.
The radicalisation of students at universities is a very sensitive area. In all my experience, formerly as an Education Minister and as a Transport Secretary now, I have been impressed by the seriousness with which university authorities take this issue. They are in no way complacent. Noble Lords who heard Professor Malcolm Grant, the provost of UCL, interviewed on the "Today" programme a few days ago will have been struck by the seriousness with which he takes his responsibilities in this area. As he said in that interview:
Other university leaders have similar stories to tell. Universities have the power to ban speakers from their premises when they believe that those speakers will incite hatred. They take these responsibilities seriously. They are working very closely indeed with the Prevent strategy and are directly supporting the work of the National Union of Students and Islamic student organisations to combat the threat that is posed, and we are satisfied that they are extremely vigilant in their responsibilities in this area.
To conclude, it is very important that we make the point loudly and clearly from this House that the Muslim mainstream majority in this country abhors the terrorist threat every bit as much as every other citizen in this country does. We are all united in seeking to combat this threat. No one could have made that clearer than the Muslim Council of Britain, which, on the day after the attack, condemned it in the strongest terms. Its secretary-general, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, said:
"We all have a collective duty to stand against those who wish to perpetrate terror against innocent civilians wherever it may occur. Terror and violence is not the way to convey a message however legitimate the cause may be. It is totally counter-productive".
That is the view of the mainstream Muslim majority in this country and of all other citizens in this country, and we work with the Muslim community as much as with the wider community to combat this threat at its very source.
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, while I welcome what my noble friend said about profiling, I thought I heard him say not that he was going to introduce a system of profiling, but that he was going to start a study on the introduction of such a system. If that is the case, will we have to go through a period of consultation? How long is that likely to be and who is going to be consulted? Moreover, can we take it that in no way will Her Majesty's Government be put off from introducing a profiling system, which can be of enormous benefit to honest, regular travellers who are unnecessarily being hugely inconvenienced these days, merely by complaints from certain people who think they might be unfairly treated?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, as I said in the Statement, BAA has from this week started training staff in the identification of suspicious behaviour and seeing to it that all passengers exhibiting such behaviour are fully screened and, where necessary, subject to further procedures. So we are not holding back at all from action in this area. However, we need to ensure that it is the right action, and that is what we are considering seriously. I can assure my noble friend that we are not holding back from taking appropriate action because of concerns about how this might be regarded by the public, because we have no doubt at all that they will welcome proportionate steps that safeguard their security as they pass through our airports.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, I declare an interest as the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. Would the Minister agree with me that tactical profiling has in fact been in use by the police and the intelligence services in this country to great effect for a very considerable time and is well developed? Further, would he join with me in welcoming the spread of tactical profiling by teaching behavioural analysis to airline staff? Does he share the view that tactical profiling has been dealt with sensibly by the control authorities in this country in consultation at times with black and minority ethnic groups? Does he also share the view that scanners and other machinery, as well as detection dogs, although useful, are no more than a supplement to well-organised, accurate, properly funded and appropriately shared intelligence?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I agree completely that scanners and all forms of aviation security are only one part of the effort that we need in this area. There must be constant vigilance in terms of our security efforts including, as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary said, looking to see how we can improve the way that we maintain and deploy the watch-list, and we need vigilance in all the institutions where there might be a danger of extremist activity taking place. Those responsible for running the institutions should take appropriate action to nip in the bud extremist activity as soon as it exhibits itself.
On prioritising passengers about whom there may be concerns for search at airports, as I made very clear in the Statement, we welcome unreservedly the decision of BAA to start systematically training airport staff in the identification of suspicious behaviour and seeing that such passengers are properly targeted for search procedures, and we are looking at how such techniques could be extended more widely.
Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement, which a lot of us will have found encouraging in the difficult circumstances. I want to ask him two questions that arise from it. First, if my memory is right, the Minister said that the operation of the new security arrangements was going to be subject to a code of practice. Those of us who have been privileged to serve in government will have been disheartened by that because a code of practice is probably the least effective and most lax arrangement that can be chosen. Would he be willing to reconsider that and put in place a more robust framework for these important new security operations?
Secondly, I shall also turn to the question of profiling. As someone who once held the Minister's post, I am well aware of the debate about profiling, but I think the time has come to get on with it. BAA is introducing something that as far as it goes is fine, but the Government cannot stand aside and let a commercial organisation take responsibility for profiling, not least because BAA does not run all the airports in the country. Therefore I encourage the Minister to let it be known that profiling is government policy and to put his shoulder behind a variety of efforts, all of which should be based on profiling given the intelligence that is available to him, and not to conduct any more public debates about it. He should just do it; that is what the public want.
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