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Contest (UK Strategy for Countering Terrorism)

Volume 531: debated on Tuesday 12 July 2011

I have today published a revised version of Contest: The United Kingdom’s strategy for countering terrorism. Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

International counter-terrorism work has made very significant progress over the past 10 years. Al-Qaeda is weaker than at any time since 9/11. It has not conducted a successful attack here since 2005. It has played no role in recent political change in north Africa and the middle east. Its ideology has been widely discredited and it has failed in all its objectives. Continued international pressure can further reduce its capability, and the UK must work with other countries to seize those opportunities in the coming months and years.

But al-Qaeda continues to be a significant threat and other terrorist groups, some affiliated to al-Qaeda—notably in Yemen and Somalia—have emerged over the past two years to be a substantial threat in their own right. The threat from Northern Ireland related terrorism has also increased. The scale of the threat and of activity to contain it is reflected in the number of arrests and convictions here for terrorist related offences. These figures remain high. The Government will continue to give the highest importance to their counter-terrorism work.

The aim of our counter-terrorist strategy is to reduce the risk to the UK and UK interests so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.

The scope of the strategy has been broadened to cover all forms of terrorism and has been changed to reflect the Government’s security and counter-terrorism policies.

Under our “Pursue” work, the purpose of which is to stop terrorist attacks, we have already reviewed the most controversial counter-terrorism and security powers which have been in place here and made significant changes to them. They are now more effective and more proportionate. We will work hard to maintain intelligence coverage of terrorist-related activity here and give the intelligence and security services and the police the capabilities they need. We will continue to try to prosecute or deport more of those who have been engaged in terrorist-related activity; and we will support foreign Governments in building their capacity to deal with terrorism overseas.

We have revised work on “Prevent”—which aims to stop people being drawn into terrorist activity—and have already published a comprehensive assessment or work to date and a statement of our future strategy. Like Contest as a whole “Prevent” has increased in scope to deal with all forms of terrorism and also to more clearly tackle extremism which is conducive to terrorist activity and can draw people towards it. We will make a clearer distinction between our “Prevent” work and our programmes to support integration. Our focus will be on challenging ideology, supporting vulnerable people, and working with key sectors where radicalisation may occur.

In our “Protect” work, we will continue to respond to recent threats to aviation security. We will further strengthen our borders—notably through the formation of the National Crime Agency—and the protection of our critical infrastructure. For “Prepare”—our contingency planning—we have learnt lessons from previous terrorist attacks. We will continue to build our capabilities to respond to a Mumbai style attack; to address the highest impact terrorist risks, including an attack which might make use of unconventional weapons; and to resolve issues of interoperability between the emergency services.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games will be the biggest sporting event in our history. Terrorism poses the greatest security threat to the games. Ensuring the security of the Olympics will be an absolute priority over the coming year.

The threat endures but al-Qaeda is significantly weaker than it has been for 10 years. There are opportunities for us and our allies to seize the opportunities we have now to further enhance our security and reduce the threats we face. This strategy is intended to enable us to do so.