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Volume 608: debated on Tuesday 12 April 2016

3. What discussions he has had with other members of the international coalition on improving diplomatic co-ordination of steps to tackle Daesh. (904402)

Britain has helped to create the global coalition against Daesh that now includes more than 60 countries. The last meeting of the smaller group of countries, which the Foreign Secretary and I attended, took place in Rome in January this year.

I thank the Minister for his answer. As reports emerged of the genocide being committed by the Nazis, the allied Governments made a co-ordinated joint statement on 17 December 1942 to condemn those crimes and pledge to bring those responsible to justice at the end of hostilities. Does my right hon. Friend the Minister agree that co-ordinating a similar statement today would be appropriate, given the evidence of similar crimes being committed by Daesh against Christians and other religious minorities?

My hon. Friend makes a powerful argument. The regular images on our screens confirm the scale and the barbarity of Daesh’s inhumane treatment of minorities. We are now witnessing systematic and horrific attacks against Christians, Yazidis and others, based on their religious beliefs or their ethnicity. I too believe that acts of genocide have taken place but, as the Prime Minister has said, genocide is a matter of legal rather than political interpretation. We as the Government are not the prosecutor, the judge or the jury. Such matters are determined first in the international courts and in the United Nations Security Council, but we are helping to gather evidence that could be used to hold Daesh to account appropriately.

Daesh poses a particular threat to civilians in Syria, as does the ongoing besieging of communities across that country. With the Syrian regime continuing to block United Nations trucks, less aid is now reaching those communities than before the cessation of hostilities. Does the welcome news on Sunday that the World Food Programme was able to deliver 20 tonnes of aid to Deir ez-Zor in a successful airdrop demonstrate that the Foreign Office, along with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence, should now re-examine the possibility of airdrops to all besieged communities in Syria?

I pay tribute to the work that the hon. Lady does in this particular area, and to her knowledge of these matters. She is right to recognise the extra work that is being done to ensure that aid gets through to those difficult areas. This is one of our focuses as the cessation of hostilities begins to endure. We must ensure that those who have been caught up in this horrendous war are able to receive the aid that they require.

22. Tackling Daesh online is as important as tackling the menace on the battlefield. Together with the international community, what more can the Government do to ensure that social media is closed down when it poisons the minds of young people and opened up to promote tolerance, fairness and opportunity? (904424)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The difference between Daesh and al-Qaeda or others before it is that this and future groups will use the internet to recruit, to fund themselves and to encourage people to fight. That is why we formed the coalition’s strategic communications working group. In London, we have formed a cell that shares best practice to ensure that we stop the movement of funds and fighters and that we challenge the poisonous ideology that Daesh puts out online.

Yesterday, the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors met and carried out an assessment of its ability to face terrorism, stating that its capability to deal with the international terror threat was imperfect. Will the Minister indicate whether he will host a conference with Garda officers and draw up a plan to ensure that the threat does not permeate our border?

That is a little bit off my beat, but it is something that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, the Home Office and I should want to move forward. We have been at the forefront of sharing best practice in recognising when extremism starts to embed itself, whether in universities, prisons or elsewhere, but if lessons are to be learned and if co-ordination can be better, we should absolutely look into that.

The international peace agreement is effectively dead as a result of recent Russian action in Aleppo. What further action can the group of countries that my hon. Friend mentioned in answer to an earlier question take to tackle Daesh more effectively?

I understand that my hon. Friend considers these matters closely, but I do not agree with his analysis. Russia is playing an important role in the cessation of hostilities given its influence over the Assad regime. He is right to identify the consequences and challenges facing Aleppo, which is Syria’s largest city by some margin. There has been an awful lot of frustration at the lack of humanitarian aid, which Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy, is focusing on to ensure that support can get in.

Daesh is trying hard to radicalise sub-Saharan Africa as well as the Maghreb. What efforts are the Government making to ensure that east African countries, such as Kenya, and the nations of the Sahel—Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad—do not fall prey to this malignant cancer?

The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on not only the challenges of Daesh in Iraq and in Syria, and we are also familiar with what is happening in Libya. Further afield, unless we are able to work and encourage local police and forces and local capability to recognise extremism, we will see it permeate other places, such as sub-Saharan Africa. That is exactly what we are doing with our local programmes in each of those countries to ensure that they have the strength and capability to recognise when extremist groups, such as Daesh, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram, are trying to penetrate their areas.

Order. Unfortunately, progress is rather slow today. I am keen to accommodate as many questioners as possible. A short sentence by way of question and a short sentence by way of reply will usually suffice.