With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about our work to counter the threat that we face from terrorism, in the light of the latest propaganda video from Daesh.
This weekend, Daesh released a video depicting the sickening murder of five men whom they had accused of spying for Britain. The video also featured a young boy. Let me echo the Prime Minister's words: this is a barbaric and appalling video. Daesh seek to intimidate and spread hateful propaganda, but in doing so they only expose their own depravity, and the emptiness of their proposition.
The House will understand that this is an ongoing police investigation. and that I cannot comment further while that investigation continues. To do so could prejudice the outcome of any future judicial process. For the same reason, I cannot comment on the alleged identity of the man or the child in the video.
Since the start of the conflict in Syria, more than 800 people from the UK who are of national security concern are thought to have travelled to the region, and we believe that about half of them have returned. Those who have travelled include young women and families. We have seen deadly Daesh-inspired terrorist attacks in Europe and other countries, including the attacks last year in Paris, Lebanon, Turkey, Kuwait and Tunisia, where 30 British nationals, along with others, were murdered at a tourist resort.
It is imperative that the police and security services have the resources and the powers that they need to keep us safe. Since 2010, we have protected the counter-terrorism policing budget, and, as we announced in November, through the strategic defence and security review, we have made new funding available to the security and intelligence agencies. That will provide for an additional 1,900 officers, an increase of 15%, at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, and will enable us to respond better to the threat that we face from international terrorism, cyber-attacks and other global risks. We have also strengthened the powers available to the police and security and intelligence agencies.
In 2013, I updated the criteria governing the use of the royal prerogative, which allows the Government to cancel the passports of those planning to travel to engage in terrorist-related activity overseas, and in 2014 I removed 24 passports from people intending to travel for terrorism-related activity. Last year, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act provided new powers to deal specifically with the problem of foreign fighters and to prevent radicalisation. This included a new power to temporarily seize the passports of those suspected of intending to leave the UK in connection with terrorism-related activity. These powers have been used on more than 20 occasions and in some cases have led to longer-term disruptive action such as use of the royal prerogative to permanently cancel a British passport. In November, we published the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny.
Since April last year, exit checks have been in place on all international commercial scheduled air, sea and rail services using the UK. The information this provides is already supporting our intelligence work, enabling us to make appropriate interventions. In addition, the UK has joined the European watch list system—so-called SIS II—meaning we are now alerted when any individual is stopped at a border checkpoint or by police anywhere in Europe and is checked against the system. Through our Prevent and Channel programmes we are working to protect people from being drawn into terrorism. In partnership with industry, we are working to secure the removal of extremist videos through the police counter terrorism internet referral unit. They are currently securing the removal of around 1,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content every week.
It is clear that Daesh will continue to try and poison minds, and to hurt people in Europe and other parts of the world. We must not let that happen and we stand with all those who want to stop it. Time and again we have seen people of all faiths and backgrounds join together and demonstrate their opposition to terror, and their stand for democracy and freedom. Britain will not be intimidated by Daesh, and together we will defeat it.
As the Home Secretary has just said, people will have been sickened to see images from the latest Daesh video on their television screens last night. What makes it even more disturbing are the British voices in the video and reports that one of them is a UK national who absconded to Syria while on police bail for terrorism-related offences. Clearly, something has gone seriously wrong. People will rightly want to know how on earth this could possibly have happened and will want reassurance that steps are in hand to prevent a repeat
The Home Secretary has not provided that today. I do appreciate that there is a limit to what she can say, but she is only saying anything at all because we applied for an urgent question that was upgraded by the Government into this statement. I believe the public are owed more than that so I want to set out the questions that she will need to answer, if not today, then over the coming days and weeks, both on the specifics and the wider implications of this case.
I will deal first with the case itself and the reports concerning Mr Siddhartha Dhar. Whether or not he is the person in the video does not matter; the system has failed because it allowed him to abscond to Syria, and it is the system’s failings I want to focus on, rather than the identities of people in the video. He was well known to the authorities having been arrested six times on terror-related offences before being placed on police bail in 2014 and asked to surrender his passport. It was when he failed to comply with those bail conditions that it emerged he had absconded. This brings me to my first question: can the Home Secretary tell the House when she was first made aware that this individual had absconded? Did she order an inquiry at that time, and if she did, can she tell us what it revealed and what immediate action she took to tighten up procedures? If she did not order a review, can she say why she did not do so? Was he placed on a watch list and, if so, when? If not, why not?
At the heart of this case is the system of police bail for people arrested for terrorism-related activity and whether it offers the potential for loopholes. Can the Home Secretary tell the House whether the authorities followed the correct procedures between arrest and the bail hearing?
Even if the correct procedures were followed, I have evidence that they were far too weak. I have here the letter sent to Dhar setting out his bail conditions after he was bailed on 26 September 2014. It reminds him that he was due to surrender his travel documents by 3 October 2014, but this letter was sent over a month later, on 7 November. Let me quote from the letter. It states: “It has come to our notice that condition number 3 has not been complied with, or so our records suggest. Are there any changes to your circumstances that the police need to be aware of? Could you please contact the police on the telephone number listed above as a matter of urgency?” Does that in any way sound like an adequate response to the seriousness of the charges? It is clear that Mr Dhar had left this country long before that letter was sent. As I have said, regardless of which individuals might be in the video, this particular individual has absconded and the Home Secretary needs to provide answers.
I turn now to the wider implications of this episode. Will the Home Secretary tell the House how many other individuals are currently on bail for terror-related offences? Is she satisfied that their bail conditions and the monitoring of those individuals are adequate? Is this the only example of an individual absconding while on police bail, or are there others? On the question of the passport, can she say whether, in cases of this type, the authorities should seize a passport immediately rather than waiting for it to be surrendered voluntarily?
Will the Home Secretary also tell us whether individuals in terrorism-related cases should immediately be placed on the watch-list for all airports and seaports at the point of arrest? There are also wider implications about border checks, and anecdotal reports suggest that people continue to be waved through at seaports. The Government committed to check all passports on exit from the UK by the end of the last Parliament. Has that been implemented? If every passport is not currently checked, when will the figure reach 100%? Even if Mr Dhar’s passport was not checked here, it should have been checked on arrival in the Schengen area. However, at the time he went through the border, the UK was not party to the Schengen Information System, which allows the sharing of our watch-lists across Europe, because the Home Secretary had delayed our participation in it. In retrospect, does she now accept that that delay was a mistake and that it weakened our security arrangements? Can she confirm that we are now playing our full part?
We know that the Border Force has undergone a huge upheaval since 2010, involving losing staff, and that it is today facing further cuts. Does the Home Secretary believe that the numbers of border staff are adequate to the meet the threat level and that further cuts will not leave us exposed?
In conclusion, we appreciate that this is an ongoing police investigation, but the fact that this individual could abscond while facing major charges raises serious questions about counter-terrorism policy. We need a commitment from the Home Secretary today that there will be an inquiry into this episode and that its findings will be made available to the House. There has clearly been a major lapse in security, and the onus now is very firmly on the Home Secretary to demonstrate that she is taking all the necessary action to strengthen our systems of monitoring people who pose a risk to our country.
The shadow Home Secretary has asked a number of questions. He is right to say that I will not comment on individual reports in the papers relating to the Daesh video. That is an ongoing investigation. An initial assessment has been made, and work on it is continuing. He asked further general questions about the conditions for police bail and on checks at the border. I assume that, as shadow Home Secretary, he knows that the decision whether to place someone on police bail, and the conditions relating to that bail, are operational matters. Those decisions are taken by the police. I seem to recall that when counter-terrorism legislation has gone through the House in the past, the official Opposition supported proposals from organisations outside the House that more use should be made of police bail for terrorist offenders.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about border checks and about whether the procedures had been tightened up. As I indicated in my statement, we have introduced exit checks. They are now taking place at the various ports of exit and in a variety of ways, according to how the information about someone’s exit is being held. We have introduced the checks and they are now providing support for our intelligence operations. He also talked about the border system that I referred to—the Schengen Information System II—suggesting that somehow this Government had delayed joining it. I seem to recall that SIS II was first proposed when the Labour party was in government, and that it was this Government—the coalition Government followed by this Government—who actually ensured that the UK went into SIS II and is now able to make use of it. We are looking across Europe to see how—I talk with my European counterparts about this—we can continue to enhance the use that can be made of SIS II. It is an important tool and we think there are ways in which we can make better use of it. We are discussing those and will be bringing them into place. We continually look to ensure that we can make any necessary moves to enhance our ability to deal with these issues, and we have done so—people can see the counter-terrorism legislation we have introduced in the past five years. We are continuing to do that, because we recognise our role and responsibility as a Government to keep people safe.
It seems to me that the one key issue that arises from this story is whether the Home Secretary is satisfied that there is an adequately rapid notification procedure following somebody being granted police bail and where the withdrawal of their passport is included, and in the event of a request that somebody surrender their passport if they appear in court. As long as those two things are now happening expeditiously, I venture the suggestion that the problem being talked about today is unlikely to recur through a mechanism of failure of notification. Having listened to the exaggerated froth that has come from Opposition Members this afternoon, I simply add that the single biggest change is the exit checks that my right hon. Friend is responsible for introducing.
My right hon. and learned Friend is right about the importance of the exit checks that have been introduced. He asks about notification in relation to when the surrender of a passport is requested. Passports will be surrendered under different powers and in different circumstances so the whole process will be carried out on a case-by-case basis. For example, when a royal prerogative is being exercised a different process will potentially be used from when a police bail decision has been undertaken. In the latter case, it is up to the police to determine the speed with which it is necessary to remove the passport.
The contents of this video are utterly abhorrent, and we hope that appropriate measures are taken to clarify the identity of this individual as swiftly and accurately as possible. A reasoned and proportionate response to this threat is essential. The Scottish National party is committed to supporting all efforts to counter terrorism and to working to safeguard the lives of citizens of this country. If someone has a passport removed as a condition of their bail, are additional options open to a judge to prevent that person from fleeing the country? What more could have been done or can be done in similar circumstances?
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments about the video, echoing the remarks that both I and the shadow Home Secretary made about the appalling and barbaric nature of not only the video, but the organisation of Daesh. She referred to bail that has been ordered by a judge, but of course bail will often be ordered by the police. If someone has not been charged with an offence, the police will determine their bail to return on a particular date and the conditions applied to that bail. As I have indicated, there are a number of processes whereby other measures can be taken. For example, if the police determine at the port, under the new powers that we have introduced, that somebody’s passport should be temporarily removed for further investigation, that can lead to its permanent removal through a royal prerogative being exercised or to other action being taken. The exercise of a terrorism prevention and investigation measure—a TPIM—can also contain measures aimed at preventing an individual from travelling. All of these decisions as to which powers should be exercised are taken on a case-by-case basis.
I have formed an impression from media coverage, which may not be accurate, that a disproportionate number of violent Islamist extremists are converts to the Muslim faith. Is there any basis for that impression and, if there is, has any analysis been done about the way in which these people were converted in the first place?
I am not aware of any figures that show overall what proportion of jihadists have previously been allied to another faith and have converted to Islam. It is certainly the case that there have been reports in the press, obviously recently but also previously, of individuals who have converted to Islam. A lot of work has been done and continues to be done on this whole question of how people are triggered into radicalisation and terrorist activity. In most cases, a number of factors come together that lead to an individual becoming radicalised, potentially to the point of undertaking violence. What we do with our counter-radicalisation programmes, particularly with Prevent and Channel, is aim to interrupt that process and stop people who have started down that route to radicalisation.
I am asking not about the vile video that the Home Secretary has rightly condemned, but about Siddhartha Dhar and the factual questions that have been raised. Will she tell the House when she was told that he had absconded, whether she asked for an inquiry and also whether the Home Office holds figures on the number of people who abscond while on police bail for terrorist offences?
I said that I would not speak about the individual who has been named in the press. I apologise to the shadow Home Secretary, because he did ask me about the number of people who have absconded while on police bail for terrorist offences. Those figures are not collected. Figures are collected for the number of people who are convicted of failing to surrender to bail, but those are not separated into those who have undertaken terrorist offences.
My right hon. Friend has been working closely with her opposite numbers in the EU—Ministers of the Interior and so on. Will she update the House on what further co-operation is now taking place given the fact that, over the past six months, there have been a number of incidents in which intelligence exchange has obviously failed?
My right hon. Friend has raised an important issue. There has been considerable progress recently in looking at the exchange of information between intelligence services around the European Union. I am talking about not just the exchange of intelligence that takes place between intelligence services, but the role of Europol. I have been talking with my opposite numbers specifically about a better exchange of information on criminal records, including terrorism offence records, further to enhance our ability to identify people who may pose a threat and to take the appropriate action. As I said earlier in response to the shadow Home Secretary, we are also looking at how the SIS II system can be improved to ensure that maximum information is available and dealt with properly.
The Home Secretary is aware of the fact that Daesh is probably the most media-savvy terrorist group that ever existed. It is very welcome that, through a combination of the police and their partners in the industry, 1,000 pieces of content are taken down every week, but for that to happen those pieces of content must have been put up in the first place. Will she undertake to ask the internet providers to monitor more closely content going up so that it does not get on there in the first place?
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. A number of initiatives are already taking place. In the UK, we hold a regular dialogue with the internet service providers. In December, the European Commission brought together EU Interior Ministers with representatives from some of the major internet service providers to discuss precisely those issues about how we can better prevent material from getting on to the internet in the first place and ensure that that material can be taken down. Here in the UK, we have had a long-standing view—across both the previous Labour Government and this Government—that we should work with the internet service providers to encourage them to use their terms and conditions as far as possible to remove material so that it is not available to promote that sort of propaganda.
A key part of our counter-terrorism narrative is that in the United Kingdom we respect religious freedom, which makes even more disturbing the increasing reports of verbal and physical assaults on ladies who wear a veil or hijab while out shopping or taking their children to school, so can my right hon. Friend assure me that she will carefully monitor the number of such incidents and the effectiveness of the police’s response?
My hon. Friend, too, raises an important point and I can assure him that through the reports to Tell MAMA we look at the instances of Islamophobia that take place, as well as looking at the instances of anti-Semitic incidents that take place. We are committed to ensuring that police will now record hate crime which has an Islamophobic element to it so that we can get a better understanding of exactly what is taking place.
The Home Secretary is aware that the terror threat was already “severe”, which means that a terrorist attack is highly likely. In view of the content of this vile video and the imminence of the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, has she put in place better protection for UK media, institutions and citizens against an attack within the UK?
We constantly look at the measures that we need to take here in the United Kingdom to protect against an attack. Following the Charlie Hebdo attack, discussions were held by the police with various media outlets to discuss with them their security. Of course, following the terrible attacks that took place in Paris on 13 November last year, we have looked further at the whole question of protective security. The right hon. Lady is right—the current national terrorist threat level is at “severe”—a terrorist attack is highly likely. The decision as to what that threat level should be is a matter for the independent joint terrorism analysis centre.
In 2014 I was very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for increasing Prevent funding to Crawley constituency. Can she give assurances to the House that she will continue those efforts to ensure that young British Muslims are not tempted by the vile and sick propaganda of Daesh that she has rightly condemned?
I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. We have taken a number of steps in relation to an uplift in Prevent funding that is taking place. Also, an important step that we took was putting the Prevent duty on a statutory basis. From everything I have heard, I think that is already having an impact out there and ensuring increasingly that those in the public sector who come into contact with young people and others, but particularly young people, are looking to spot the signs that somebody may be being taken down the route of radicalisation, and to take appropriate action.
The House will understand and accept the Home Secretary’s concerns about interfering in a live police investigation, but she must surely accept that the information that is already in the public domain risks undermining public confidence in the police bail system. She or somebody in the police service today or some other time will have to give the information to the public to assure that there is no risk as a result of the operation of that system. The videos that we are concerned with today are—it is almost trite to say it—abhorrent and horrific, but they are merely the symptom of the wider disease of radicalisation. It is believed by many people that the radicalisation process is funded from sources in Saudi Arabia. Will the Home Secretary undertake today to investigate whether that is the case and, if it is, will she undertake to do what is necessary to shut off that source of funding?
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about looking at the source of funding for extremism and terrorism here in the United Kingdom. There is a specific piece of work that we will be undertaking, which the Prime Minister referred to when he gave his statement to the House in November in relation to Syria. That will be done through the extremism analysis unit that has been set up in the Home Office, looking specifically at the funding of the extremism here in the United Kingdom.
I appreciate the work of the security services and the police in dealing with counter-terrorism. Clearly a great deal of their work is focused on overseas issues and security within the capital. Can the Home Secretary assure me that she is confident that enough counter-terrorism work is being done to ensure the safety and security of the British people in other cities and towns up and down the country?
I hope that I can reassure my hon. Friend by saying that counter-terrorism units exist not just in London, but elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Following the Paris attacks last November, a piece of work has been started—we are now finessing it—in relation to armed police response, looking across the United Kingdom to ensure that we have the appropriate numbers of trained armed officers in the right places.
Of course, the Home Secretary has form when it comes to absconding. Can she update the House on the current whereabouts of Ibrahim Magog, who absconded in a black cab in January 2013? Can she update the House on the whereabouts of Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, who absconded wearing a burqa in November 2013? Both were on terrorism prevention orders at the time, under the instruction of the Home Secretary.
The Home Secretary quite rightly said that there has been enhanced funding for the security and intelligence services, but may I ask—this adds to the point my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) made—that those extra resources and armed response units also go to our regional towns and cities, not just the capital?
As I indicated in response to our hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson), the work that we are undertaking looks across the country at what is appropriate for armed response availability and response times. There will be an uplift in the number of armed officers within the police. As I have said, the exercise is looking precisely at how that should be done and where those officers should be, and it is not only looking at London.
I thank the Home Secretary for yet again putting clear blue water between our fellow Muslim countrymen and those who are extremists and involved in terrorism within this country. To reinforce that point, does she accept that it would be better to pursue counter-extremism and counter-terrorism right across the country, irrespective of geographic location, race or creed? With that in mind, are there any aspects of the counter-extremism strategy that could be operated in Northern Ireland?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the confidence he has shown in the counter-extremism strategy and in the work that we have developed and are developing on counter-extremism. As he knows, we have had discussions with the devolved Administrations on how the strategy should apply in those parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Northern Ireland and Scotland. Of course, work is already undertaken in Northern Ireland, in a separate strand of action, and that has been shown to be very valuable. Obviously, as he will be aware, at the moment the counter-extremism strategy that we are developing does not apply to Northern Ireland.
Internet-based propaganda does a huge amount to radicalise and brainwash people living in the UK into planning atrocities or travelling abroad to fight. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the additional resources invested in our security services, including GCHQ, which is based in my constituency, significantly enhance our ability to hunt that material down and remove it?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Importantly, we have enhanced the resources going into our security and intelligence agencies. He of course has a particular interest in GCHQ, given his constituency. The work being done there is very important, not just because of the information and intelligence that might be helpful in counter-terrorism, but because of what is done there to counter the cyber-security threat we face.
Many people in Waltham Forest are extremely shocked at the possibility that someone who lived in our community could be involved in atrocities. They would want me to make it clear that we do not consider that he represents either our community or Islam, and we condemn utterly his ideals and actions. However, the Home Secretary will also be aware that there are growing concerns that innocent individuals and families may be unfairly caught up in the activities necessary to keep our country safe. Will she meet me and other MPs representing those UK citizens who have been denied the right to travel to discuss their experiences and how we can reassure them that efforts to tackle terrorism are based on good intelligence and effective partnership, not prejudice?
First of all, I thank the hon. Lady for the remarks she made about Waltham Forest in her constituency and her constituents’ condemnation of the barbaric activities of Daesh and anybody involved in them.
The hon. Lady asks me about the whole question of those who have been denied the opportunity to travel through the exercise of the royal prerogative. If she wishes to bring up particular cases, I am sure that the Minister for Security will be happy to meet her. But I have to say to her that on the one hand her party’s Front Benchers are encouraging us to exercise greater powers and make greater use of the power to prevent people from travelling while she is indicating concern about it. They ought to get their story straight.
One of the chilling aspects of the latest Daesh video is the exploitation of a very young child. On the issue of the radicalisation of children, what progress is being made by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Education on ensuring that all madrassahs are registered and that all of them, even those that are unregistered, are monitored in order to safeguard our national security and our national way of life?
We have been working with the Department for Education. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been developing proposals for the registration of madrassahs, starting with those providing a certain length of time of more formalised teaching. Action is under way in relation to that particular issue.
My hon. Friend raises a matter that concerns many people about children involved in Daesh in Iraq and Syria—children who may be taken away by their families and taken abroad to that environment. In the last year, in a significant number of instances, court powers have been used to prevent families from going abroad. This is quite simply a safeguarding issue and local authorities are increasingly looking at the issue and taking action.
I have been asked this question before and have said that I am not giving indications in the Chamber today about any particular individual. Decisions about whether somebody should be on police bail are taken by the police. They decide the conditions of police bail, and that is as it has always been.
Many of my constituents tell me that they are not particularly perturbed at radicalised extremists who are leaving the country, but they are very perturbed about them coming into the country. What could the Home Secretary tell us about what she is doing to make sure that these people are not allowed back into the country, whether they are British citizens or not?
We have taken a number of increased powers in relation to people who may be coming into the country to do us harm. First of all, we put our no-fly scheme on a statutory basis in legislation that we passed early last year. We also introduced in that same legislation the new temporary exclusion orders, which enable us to manage the return of individuals of concern when they are British citizens and cannot be rendered stateless. Decisions on that are taken on a case-by-case basis.
We also enhanced the ability of the Government to remove British citizenship from those who might be in the position of having alternative citizenship. We have increased our ability to take citizenship away from those individuals when there is a concern about the threat they might pose to the United Kingdom.
Further to the question by my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary, will the Home Secretary confirm what increase she has made in the number of Border Force staff to enable her to carry out full exit controls? When does she plan to have full controls for the people who are returning, and what implications will that have? How will she deal with the issue of biometric passports when people are returning on that basis?
For the benefit of the House, let me say that I think there are some inaccurate assumptions about the way in which exit checks are undertaken. It is not the case that every single exit check will be undertaken by a member of Border Force staff checking somebody’s passport as they go through a point of exit. A lot of this information comprises data that are being gathered electronically, and it is therefore not necessary for Border Force staff to be available to undertake that task.
As well as propaganda online, much planning for modern terrorism takes place on the internet. The Home Secretary mentioned the draft Investigatory Powers Bill. Will she reassure the House that she is determined to come to a workable arrangement with the major internet companies to make sure that there is no safe space online to plot terror?
Absolutely. We continue our discussions with the internet companies on a variety of aspects, not least the operation of the forthcoming Investigatory Powers Bill and elements within it. It is important that we work with the internet service providers, which have a very key role to play in this area in relation to propaganda that can appear on their systems and the response that they give to warrantry requests from the authorities.
The Home Secretary will be aware of concerns I have had for a number of years about exit checks, following the worrying situation in which an individual known to the security services was able to travel with a passport from my constituency to Syria. Will she be absolutely clear on the point about exit checks? Are all individuals leaving the UK through a port of exit by commercial means being checked electronically at the point of exit on their passport, yes or no, and if not, why is that not being considered?
As I have indicated, the way in which the information is being taken varies from port of exit to port of exit. Some of the information in relation to flights, for example, is the advance passenger information that is available to the authorities and has been for some time. At other ports a specific swipe of a passport will be taken. All this information is being held electronically.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it was quite right to conduct a review of the operation of the Prüm convention before deciding to opt into that convention before Christmas? Does she agree that cases like the one that the House is discussing today show why that was exactly the right decision?
My hon. Friend is right to point out that it was a sensible approach to look at a proper business case for going into Prüm so that we were not just making a decision based on no evidence. It was clear from the evidence available to us that there were advantages to Prüm, and I am glad to say that an overwhelming majority of Members of this House supported it. It is indeed absolutely right and it will be a very valuable tool for us.
I am not asking about the correctness of the decision to bail Dhar, but what I would like to know is this: did the Home Secretary learn from Home Office officials, from the police or from the media that he had absconded?
I think there is somehow, somewhere, a view on the Opposition Benches that Home Secretaries spend all their time scouring the media, or indeed anything else, looking at individual cases. As I said earlier, decisions as to whether somebody should be put on police bail are operational matters for the police. I receive regular security briefings from the police and from the security and intelligence agencies on individuals of concern and on high-priority cases.
I welcome what the Home Secretary has said about the Government’s work to stop Daesh poisoning young people’s minds with its perverted ideology. Will she join me in praising community groups across the UK, including Building Bridges Pendle in my constituency, for their great work on community and inter-faith cohesion?
It is absolutely right that across the United Kingdom many groups are working very carefully and very hard within communities to build bridges within their various faith communities. I commend Building Bridges Pendle, the organisation in my hon. Friend’s constituency. One of the elements of the counter-extremism strategy that we are developing is precisely to try to find ways in which we can help those community groups to further enhance the work that they are doing to increase their voice so it is the mainstream voice that is heard.
I think the House, and maybe even the public, might be interested to know what interest the Home Secretary thinks she is protecting by refusing to tell us when she was advised that Siddhartha Dhar had absconded and whether she did anything about it.
Daesh represents such a serious threat largely because of its widespread use of technology and social media to radicalise people in their bedrooms, on their smartphones, covertly but sadly compellingly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our security services and police need special powers to collect internet connection records and bulk communication data to protect the nation’s security and stay ahead of the terrorists in this complex environment?
My hon. Friend puts her point extremely well and she is absolutely right. It is important that we are able to access these internet connection records and to have the powers that we are hoping to introduce in the Investigatory Powers Bill. It is entirely right that the Government should continually look to see what further measures we need to take to enhance the powers of the police and security and intelligence agencies to keep us safe, and that is exactly what we are doing.
I am not able to give an absolute date for the hon. Lady, but I hope to be in a position to be able to—[Interruption.] In fact, the counter-extremism strategy has been published, and we are now looking at the question of the legislation that we would undertake through it. The specific piece of work by Louise Casey on the cohesion of communities will not be available for some weeks, or potentially months, because it is ongoing. I would hope to be able to update the House soon on any legislative proposals.