With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the terrorist attacks we have seen since Parliament last sat.
There has been no summer like it. When we rose seven weeks ago, we left this House in the wake of the worst terrorist attack our country had seen in over a decade, with Khalid Masood trying to strike at the heart of our democracy. He was foiled that day by one of our brave police officers. But tragically it has proved to be the first of many attempts to bring terror and hate to our streets. Two months later, a cowardly and devastating attack in Manchester left 22 people dead and 59 injured after a suicide bomber targeted children at a concert in the Manchester Arena. On 3 June, a van was deliberately driven into pedestrians on London Bridge before three men got out of the vehicle and began stabbing people in nearby Borough Market. Eight people were killed and 48 injured. And then on Monday, almost exactly one year after Jo Cox was brutally murdered in Birstall, we woke to the news of the return of far-right terror, with a man viciously driving into a group of Muslim worshippers in north London. One man who had fallen ill before the attack died, and nine others were treated in hospital. Westminster, the Manchester Arena, London Bridge, and now Finsbury Park: 36 innocent people dead and over 150 hospitalised; a tragic loss of innocent life.
Last week, I met a mother and father who had lost their daughter in the vicious attacks on London Bridge. She had been stabbed while out celebrating her new job with a friend in Borough Market. Just under two weeks before, she planned to be at the arena in Manchester where Salman Abedi committed his heinous crimes, but she decided not to use her ticket. She had come to London to enjoy a wonderful trip away—a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But instead it was the last trip she ever made. I know everyone in this House will want to join me in expressing our sorrow for the pain her family will be feeling, and all those families who have lost loved ones will be feeling, as well as passing on our thoughts and prayers for those victims who are still trying to recover from the trauma and tragedy of these events.
I also know that the House will want to join me in acknowledging the incredible efforts of our emergency services during this difficult period. The events of recent months serve to remind us of the bravery, professionalism and, above all, incredible sacrifice made by those who work to keep us safe.
As Home Secretary, there is nothing more saddening than standing before Parliament to deliver a statement like this. These acts of terrorism represent the very worst of humanity. They seek to spread fear, intolerance and hate. Countering this threat has always been a crucial part of the work of this Government. That was why we introduced measures to disrupt the travel of foreign fighters, and why we passed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which gives the police and intelligence services more powers and the tools they need to keep the public safe. It was also why, just seven weeks ago, we legislated to strengthen our response to terrorist financing with the Criminal Finances Act 2017.
We have protected overall police funding in real terms since 2015, increased counter-terrorism budgets and funded an uplift in the number of armed police officers. We are now in the process of recruiting over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff. The Channel programme, which offers voluntary, tailored programmes of support to people assessed as being at risk of radicalisation, has supported over 1,000 at-risk individuals since 2012. Following referrals from the counter-terrorism internet referral unit, social media providers have removed 270,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material since February 2010.
However, we are entering a new phase of global terrorism, and many of the challenges that we face are unprecedented. We now believe we are experiencing a new trend in the threat we face. Between June 2013 and the Westminster bridge attack in March this year, the security services foiled 13 plots linked to or inspired by Islamist extremists, but just since then, we have seen five plots prevented as well as three such Islamist extremist plots succeed, and of course the appalling attack at Finsbury Park earlier this week.
We must therefore do more. We must do more to defeat ideologies of hatred by turning people’s minds away from violence and towards pluralistic British values. We must make sure that these ideologies are not able to flourish in the first place. We must do more to force tech companies to take down terror-related content from their platforms. We must also do more to identify, challenge and stamp out the extremism that lurks in our communities. That is why we will set up a commission for countering extremism. For just as the Labour Government in the 1970s set us on a course to tackling racial inequality in this country by setting up the Commission for Racial Equality, we need to—and must—do more to tackle the extremists who seek to radicalise and weaponise young people in Britain today.
Doing more also means asking difficult questions about what has gone wrong. In the light of the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed to make sure that the police and the security services have what they need to keep us safe. In addition, there will be a review of the handling of recent terror attacks to look at whether lessons can be learned about our approach, and I am pleased to announce that David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, will oversee it.
What we have witnessed in Manchester and London are the depraved actions of murderers intent on tearing our country apart, but each act of hate has been met by overwhelming defiance. In Borough Market, I recently saw stallholders dishing olives out into plastic pots, shoppers searching for delicious treats and tourists flicking through guidebooks in the shadow of the Shard. Rather than being divided by recent violence, people seemed even closer together. We should follow the example of the traders and the shoppers of Borough Market. Terrorists want us to fear and to turn on one another, but we will never give terrorists what they want. We will stand together, and we will make the point that terrorists will never win, and that our values, our country and our unity will prevail. I commend this statement to the House.
The Opposition are grateful to the Home Secretary for her statement. We would like to offer our condolences to all the families of the victims of the Westminster, Manchester, and London bridge and Borough Market attacks and, most recently, the Finsbury Park attack—36 innocent people dead, 150 people hospitalised, with too many families to whom children or parents will never come home, too many people, particularly children, who have seen sights that they may never be able to unsee, and whole communities traumatised.
The Opposition commend all the emergency services, including the police, the fire service, the British Transport police and NHS staff, for their swift action, for running towards danger and for coming in off shift, which undoubtedly prevented worse injuries and saved lives.
I would like to say a word about the imam at the Finsbury Park mosque. He put himself at risk to protect and defend the alleged assailant, who had driven over so many people outside the mosque. I believe that this imam exemplifies the best of the values of Islam, such as peace and justice, as well as the best of British values.
I would also like to say a word about the community around the Finsbury Park mosque. I was there this week and I met people of all faiths—Christian leaders, Jewish leaders, including my constituents Rabbi Gluck and Rabbi Pinter, and of course Muslim leaders—working together to heal the community and take the community forward. I believe that the way in which multi-faith and inter-community co-operation is working in practice in that area of London shows us the way forward in the long run in contesting the ideology of fear, violence and terror.
The variety of the attacks and the varied backgrounds of their perpetrators reveal that we face multiple threats. No single type of person and no single community is the sole source of these attacks. We all face these attacks and we must all face them together. Of course, the blame for the attacks lies solely with the perpetrators and any murderous supporters and enablers they may have had, but it is reasonable for this House to say that the role of Government is to secure the safety of our citizens, and it is reasonable for the House to ask whether everything has been done that could reasonably have been done.
I noted the actions that the Government have taken in the Home Secretary’s statement. Largely, the Opposition support them, but we warn against an emphasis on more legislation, rather than looking at resources. We will look at all legislative proposals that the Government bring forward on their merits, but we believe that resources are at the heart of this matter, not just new legislation. In that view, we are supported by Max Hill, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. His objective view is that the current powers are sufficient. He told the BBC after the Prime Minister’s speech in which she called for more powers:
“My view coming into the scrutiny which we are told the prime minister wants to conduct is that we do have the appropriate laws in place, and that essentially the police and security services, and those whose job it is to keep us safe, do have the powers at their disposal.”
He added that there was a case for increased use of terrorism prevention and investigation measures.
On the question of resources, it is one thing to talk about specialist policing and security resources, but the Opposition do not believe we can overstate the importance of neighbourhood policing. It is that neighbourhood engagement at all levels, often in what seem to be simple ways, that builds a community’s confidence in officialdom and the Government, and that encourages people to come forward with the information that may help us to stop future terrorist activity. We have said and continue to say that it is wrong that since 2010, we have lost 20,000 from police numbers. We oppose the further cuts to the police budgets that are in the pipeline.
The Home Secretary keeps saying that the Government have protected police budgets. I have to tell her that no policing stakeholders, including the Police Federation, support her in saying that police budgets and resources have not been hit. We are being told that austerity must end, so will the Home Secretary now commit to halting these cuts, or does austerity still apply to our safety?
Senior retired officers have said that police cuts have gone too far. I have heard that Mark Rowley, the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has written to the Home Secretary saying that counter-terrorism is not able to operate effectively because of demands in other areas of policing, and that if resources were diverted to counter-terrorism, other areas of policing would suffer. He is saying that cuts have consequences, and that the Home Secretary’s cuts run the risk of putting us all in danger. The Opposition’s understanding is that the Home Secretary is going to cut again.
Order. At this early stage of the Parliament, can I just say something that I think is quite important for future reference? There are time limits for questioning on statements, which, in the last Parliament, were very substantially disregarded. That cannot happen in this Parliament, because it is not fair to Back Benchers. That is my first point.
My second point—forgive me; the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) is extraordinarily articulate and very experienced—is one that Opposition spokespersons frequently just do not seem to understand: in responding to a statement, the Chair is not expecting to hear a counter-statement. The Chair is looking to hear, as provided for in our procedures, a very brief response, followed by a series of questions. That should be the character of the response.
On this occasion, I will allow the right hon. Lady to finish, but I hope she will be sensitive to quite a widespread feeling in the House that she is approaching her peroration. Thereafter, we must observe these limits. If they are not observed, I will regretfully have to ask the spokesperson concerned to resume his or her seat.
So can I ask the Home Secretary, does she accept that resources are as important as new institutions and new legislation? The Opposition welcome the measures to get internet companies to block and take down content that promotes terrorism, but does she accept the need for a review of the Prevent programme and the need to reframe the debate around it as relating not only to the Muslim community but to far-right terrorism?
The Opposition believe that there is considerable unity on these issues in the country as a whole. We believe that the country as a whole wants to know that we will not play into the terrorists’ hands by stoking divisions, demonising communities or rescinding our hard-won freedoms under the law.
I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments and the constructive way in which she is approaching this. The Government look forward to working with her to make sure that we have a constructive, united approach to this enemy that is trying to attack us.
The right hon. Lady asked particularly about new legislation. She is right that Max Hill has said that he does not see the need for new legislation, but he also said that he does see the need for a review of sentences, so we will certainly look at whether we can have tougher sentences. On our potential new legislation and approach, I ask her to hold fire for now on concluding that to be the case until we have done this review. Looking backwards, our review over the next few months into why so many terror attacks took place will be critical. For that, we will have independent assurance in the form of David Anderson. We will also have a review looking ahead to what else we can do.
As I said in my statement, we feel we have entered a new phase. That may mean that we need to introduce new legislation, but we will not rush to do that based on the attacks. We will look at doing that depending on what we find out from these reviews. I ask her to keep an open mind on that, depending on what conclusions the reviews reach.
I yield to no one in my respect for the work of the police, particularly the work of the counter-terrorism police in the past few months. We all recognise the enormous extra work and effort that has gone into following up on the attacks and keeping us safe. We have protected the police budget from 2015. There has been a lot of scaremongering about changes to the budget, and I repeat here, in the House, that it will be protected. We will ensure that we always give the security services and the police who work to keep us safe the resources that they need.
I greatly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I want to raise just two or three points. First, I particularly welcome the review of the sentencing guidelines. That should happen because of the evidence that individuals who commit acts preparatory to terrorism may be receiving sentences that are insufficient, although clearly they need to be proportionate.
The second issue concerns the response and how our security services work to deal with the threat. My right hon. Friend will know that the Government have invested considerably in that. The money spent and the number of officers available have been greatly enhanced. Equally, it is right that, because of the classified nature of the work, some details cannot be given to the House. That emphasises to me that one of the problems in the past three and a half months has been that we have not had an Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament to provide the sort of scrutiny that might be helpful to hon. Members in understanding what has gone on, what should happen in the future and whether any improvements could be made. I therefore gently urge my right hon. Friend to make representations to the Prime Minister that that should be given priority.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his comments. He is very experienced in the matter, having been Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. He makes a good point and I will follow up his suggestion that we establish that Committee as soon as possible so that we can give the House the confidence of knowing that Members from both Chambers will look at the matter and provide assurance.
I add the voice of the Scottish National party to those who condemn the terrible attacks, and extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the dead and our best wishes for a full recovery to those injured.
I welcome the Home Secretary back to her place and look forward to working with her on this and other important issues.
The Finsbury Park attack reminds us that terrorism is a threat to all communities in the United Kingdom and it is therefore important that measures to counter extremism never segregate or stigmatise communities.
I have three questions for the Home Secretary. First, I am concerned that, while commendable, the Government’s plans to establish a commission risk, without legislation, bypassing parliamentary scrutiny and the need for legal certainty about the definition of terms such as “extremism” and “British values”. How will she ensure that Parliament gets to scrutinise those matters?
Secondly, we in the SNP believe that to fight terrorism effectively we can use existing legislation, and that what really matters is that the police and security services have the necessary resources to act effectively under that legislation. Will the Home Secretary confirm that such resources will be made available in the future?
Thirdly, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister spoke of ripping up human rights to fight terrorism. Will the Home Secretary confirm that there is nothing in the Human Rights Act or the European convention on human rights to prevent us from taking a robust approach to terrorism? Will she therefore confirm that there are no plans to tear up human rights and that we can tackle terrorism and uphold the standards of this society without doing so?
I thank the hon. and learned Lady for her question and her kind welcome.
The recommendations that the commission on extremism makes will need to be brought before Parliament. I therefore expect full scrutiny of the recommendations when they are brought to Parliament to be taken forward.
I can confirm that we will always provide the resources necessary to keep our citizens safe. We have already announced substantial uplifts to the security services. There will be 1,900 new people joining the security services up until 2020, and an increased number of armed officers are being made available in the country.
I can also tell the hon. and learned Lady that later this year we will conduct a full-scale counter-terrorism exercise involving Police Scotland and forces from the north of England. We will always work with the Scottish Government and police to ensure that we keep all parts of the United Kingdom safe.
Will there be an opportunity to give evidence to the commission for countering terrorism and extremism, based on the lessons that we have learnt in the past to counter other totalitarian ideologies such as communism and Nazism? Does my right hon. Friend accept that organisations like ISIL/Daesh and al-Qaeda rise and fall, but the underlying doctrine of what ought to be called un-Islamic extremism persists? Does she accept that that is what must be countered, and that an active Government agency to counter it is what is required?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Extremism comes in many different forms. “Un-Islamic extremism” is one way of describing it, and it is a perfectly reasonable description. I would expect the commission on extremism to ask people to give evidence, so that we can be sure to collect the best possible information in order to do the best possible job for our communities.
I join the Home Secretary in remembering the victims, and in paying tribute to the immense bravery of the emergency services and the public. I also join her in saying that extremists and terrorists must never divide us, be they Islamist extremists or far-right extremists, and wherever that violence comes from.
I welcome the proposal for a review by David Anderson of the attacks, but will the Home Secretary also tell us a bit more about them? For example, the Manchester attacker is reported to have been known to the intelligence services, and also to have travelled repeatedly to Libya. Will the Home Secretary tell us whether the man who committed that vile attack was on a watch list, and whether he was ever stopped by Border Force in the course of those journeys? Will she also ensure that the relationship between the intelligence services and Border Force is looked at as part of David Anderson’s review?
The right hon. Lady is right to draw attention to the relationship with the border forces and the security services. I would expect that to be looked at as well. I cannot, at this stage, give the right hon. Lady the additional details that she seeks. It is, of course, part of the nature of the security services that they do so much good work and we are not really at liberty to talk too much about it. However, I hope that the work that David Anderson does with them—which will start almost immediately—will help us to find the answers to some of those questions: for instance, quite how much the security services knew about that man, and whether there were instances that were missed, or whether this was just part of the much higher level of attacks that we are sadly witnessing at the moment.
Will the Home Secretary join me in expressing condolences to the family of Elaine McIver, an off-duty police officer who was killed in the Manchester attack, and who had worked at the Winsford police headquarters in my constituency? Will she also join in the praise for the Cheshire police, who went to the aid of their Manchester colleagues during a desperate attack which had a devastating effect on the local community, and will she confirm that the additional armed officers will be allocated to areas across the country, including Manchester and Cheshire?
Of course I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the immense bravery of, in particular, the off-duty policewoman whom she mentioned, and that of other members of the public who joined in to protect people. The work that Manchester did in responding to the attack was heroic. I particularly commend the chief constable, Ian Hopkins, who did such good work. It was part of a very well-practised and well-operated scheme. Other forces came in to assist: they “surged” their assistance to ensure that, in both police and emergency terms, the resources were there to protect people and look after them in the future.
I call Mrs Margaret Hodge.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. In the days following both the Manchester and London Bridge attacks, a number of my constituents were arrested, with suspicions around terrorism. This is the first time that that has happened in Barking and Dagenham. Most of my constituents, of all religions, creeds and ethnicities, share with all of us the horror at the outrages, the praise for the services and the feelings of empathy for those who have been affected by the attacks. However, the Home Secretary said in her statement that those who perpetrate terrorism seek to spread fear, intolerance and hate, and I have concerns that, in the aftermath of the attacks, that is precisely what could happen in my constituency. The Muslim community in particular are feeling very vulnerable and isolated, and the police have not been able to give them the reassurance that they want. Will she take steps to ensure that police resources are made available so that there is a police presence there, the allegations of race hate crime, which are already growing, are dealt with, and other measures that will provide security for all communities in my constituency, and therefore promote tolerance, are put in place rapidly and not left to fester?
I have long known that the right hon. Lady is a magnificent woman, but I had momentarily forgotten that she is a Dame. I hope that she will forgive me.
I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I share her concern: we must ensure that we do not see an increase in Islamophobia. We must be a country that can deal fairly with all communities. My hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service is meeting the Met commissioner, and he will raise that matter with her, thinking particularly of the right hon. Lady’s constituency of Barking.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and through her the people in the police and security services, who put their lives on the line to keep us all safe. Following on from the question from the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge), I think that the Home Secretary acknowledges that all our communities, and particularly our Muslim communities, including the Muslim community in my constituency, need to have confidence in the protections afforded by those services. Will she therefore ensure that all our police forces have the resources to provide the continuous training that is required for the officers who are needed to provide those assurances throughout our communities?
My right hon. Friend builds on the question from the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) about hate crime and what more we can do in our communities. I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must ensure that our police have the best training, so that they are aware of the best way to approach what could be sensitive issues. We have the College of Policing, a national body that provides such training to ensure that police officers have the information and that they can learn the best way to approach sensitive situations. Last year, we published the hate crime action plan to ensure that people have the confidence to report such incidents and that we have the procedures to follow them up. We are in no way complacent about the need always to be on the front foot to reassure communities that we will take seriously any incidents of hate crime.
I associate myself and my party with the Home Secretary’s expressions of sorrow and condolence for all the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. During my visit to Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park on Tuesday, one of the key messages from the Muslim leaders was that there is a strong feeling that Government action on counter-extremism has so far failed to bring together all voices in the different communities. Therefore, will she today guarantee that the new commission for countering extremism will engage with all representative groups and that no group that wants to help the Government to defeat extremism will be excluded?
It is essential to ensure that people are aware that the Government’s counter-extremism initiatives, their Prevent initiatives and their initiatives through Channel are focused on all extremism. The right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) asked me about Prevent, and I would like to remind people that 25% of the Channel referrals—Channel is the additional part of Prevent that some people are put on—are extreme right wing. In fact, there are some parts of the country where the extreme right wing is the real danger, rather than radical extremist Islamic terrorism. I would like to reassure the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) that we will listen to all parts of the community and to different bodies, to ensure that the counter-extremism commission has the opportunity to gather all the necessary information.
During the recent terrorist incidents, we all saw images on our TV screens of desperate families and friends going from hospital to hospital clutching pictures of their loved ones and trying to get more information on their whereabouts. I full appreciate that telephone helplines were set up, and I understand that in such instances people can sometimes have injuries that make them unrecognisable. Also, people often do not carry identification with them. Nevertheless, given modern technology, is it possible for the Home Secretary to work with her Government colleagues to establish a central point that families and loved ones can go to, and to which hospitals can provide information, so that people do not have to go from hospital to hospital?
I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. I saw those photographs and pictures as well; it must have been very distressing for the families involved, not knowing what had happened to their loved ones. We have to make sure, despite that, that the safety of the people involved is the first priority when the police and the emergency services arrive to secure the scene. I will certainly take his suggestion back to the counter-terrorism unit.
Two members of my immediate family were present at the Manchester Arena bombing, and my contempt for that bomb is heightened by the fact that this was not a thrash metal gig; it was Ariana Grande, and the targets were little girls. Does the Home Secretary share my concern about the continuing presence of far-right hate preachers in organisations such as the English Defence League, and does she agree that we ought to be tightening up on some of their activities as well, in order to prevent further Islamophobia?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We must root out extreme right-wing violent hate, as well as radical Islamic terrorism, wherever we find it. I was the first Home Secretary to ban a far-right group, National Action, which was proscribed last year. That has given the police a legal basis on which to go after people who join it. We will continue to be vigilant.
I should like to thank the Home Secretary for coming to the Chamber today and giving us this statement and our first opportunity in this new Parliament to ask important questions about these horrific attacks. My question is very simple—and short, Mr Speaker. Can she update us on the progress in recruiting the extra armed police officers?
Yes. We have done, I think, 650 so far, and we are on schedule to do the rest as planned. Given the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, I will ensure that we do that.
Time is tight, so I shall focus on Borough Market in my constituency. The horrific attack there was met with a community spirit, business action, and police and NHS responses that were truly second to none. This makes me even prouder to be re-elected to serve the area. The Home Secretary has said again today that the terrorists will never win, but that will require more action. How are the Government ensuring that tourist and leisure hotspots such as Borough Market are better protected? What budget is being made available to fit barriers and bollards to protect civilians? How will the Government ensure that the NHS is not a victim of major incidents? Southwark hospitals are struggling financially, so what additional budgets are being made available to ensure that their tremendous efforts are covered? How are the Government going to ensure that the police have not just the numbers but the resources and powers to prevent atrocities and to act when they occur? This short, brutal attack at Borough Market was over quite quickly, but the market remained closed for over a week, costing some of the small traders tens of thousands of pounds. What are the Government doing to make insurance companies pay out on their business interruption clauses, given that some are, outrageously, withholding payment?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. May I say how much I enjoyed my recent visit to Borough Market? It was a pleasure to see it so vibrant and active, and I hope that people will show their support by continuing to visit or by shopping there for the first time.
We have put additional resources into the security services and will continue to do that, and additional money is going into the armed police uplifts. It is essential that we wait for the review to happen, rather than rush in now, so that we can find out where we have holes and where we should be putting in additional support.
After the memorial ceremony at Southwark cathedral, I met some of those who had been at the hospital in Southwark, and it was a great honour and privilege to speak to them and to hear about the fantastic work that they have done.
At the weekend, I drove my family back to London from my constituency. My wife and daughters are Jewish. We were met by a protest where there were anti-Semitic banners and chants and where people were waving Hezbollah flags—for those unfamiliar with the flag, I should add that it has a big machine gun on it. To make a mockery of the law, somebody had put a post-it note on one of the flags saying, “You cannot arrest me because I support the political wing of Hezbollah, not the military wing—this time.” If enough really is enough, will the Home Secretary take action against such rallies, ban them, so that they can never happen on the streets of London again, and ensure that the whole of Hezbollah is a proscribed organisation?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. It is always distressing to see that sort of march going on, and the provocation that he describes must have been very upsetting for him and his family. I will certainly consider what he has suggested and come back to discuss it with him and, if needed, the House.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. There is a balance of obligations today. On the one hand, I am keen to accommodate the extensive interest in this matter. On the other hand, I should advise the House that the business statement follows, in which there is usually interest, and that no fewer than 29 colleagues wish to speak in this afternoon’s debate on the Gracious Speech, of whom five are would-be maiden speakers. I would like to accommodate them, so brevity is imperative.
First, I have one bit of advice for the Home Secretary: please be very careful about language. Many people feel alienated by talk of “stamping out” and “enough is enough”.
Secondly, will there be just one commission? As a west Yorkshire MP, a neighbour of Jo Cox’s constituency and as part of a brilliant group of hard-working MPs who work with their communities, I know that Muslim communities are absolutely disgusted by these terrorist outrages. Could we have local commissions up and down the country that work together? There will be one national commission, but having local ones would be a great advantage.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion. When the commission gets started, I can put that suggestion to it to see whether that would enhance its work.
I am fortunate to know the Muslim community in west Oxfordshire well, and I wonder whether the Home Secretary can provide further details of how the commission will work with local communities to our mutual benefit.
We have an open mind about working out the best way of approaching the commission for countering extremism. We will ensure that it covers all parts of the country, as has been suggested, and that it applies itself to rooting out and discovering information about extremism, wherever it is found. When we have more information, I will come back to my hon. Friend.
According to security sources, some 150 ISIS terrorists are living in Northern Ireland and the Republic, either working together or alone. Will the Home Secretary ensure that security forces in Northern Ireland, the UK mainland and the Republic work together to monitor and resource the police efforts to ensure that those people do not become a threat to all of us in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Our working relationship with Northern Ireland and the security services is very good. I will certainly take his suggestion under advisement to ensure that everybody is aware of his concerns and that we continue to step up that work.
I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement, given in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), that she believes that she is on target to recruit the number of armed officers that she is seeking. I have been speaking to the armed officers who protect us on this estate, and interestingly, however, there is one common piece of feedback: they are worried about the quality of potential recruits due to the disincentive of automatic referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I wonder whether it is time to consider whether that should still apply in terrorist attacks.
I can reassure my hon. Friend that for certain attacks, such as marauding firearms attacks, which are sometimes declared as a terrorist attack, as occurred here, the IPCC immediately states that such a referral is not necessary. A particularly different approach is taken when there is a terrorist attack, but in general the IPCC does an important job in creating that clear line, which is as useful to the police as it is to the rest of us.
I join the Home Secretary in her congratulations to Ian Hopkins and all our public services in both Manchester and London on what they did during the recent attacks. I set the budget for Greater Manchester police for this current year and I was faced with cuts from central Government. If she wants to bring us all together to fight terrorism, she needs to recognise that combating terrorism, like other things, places real strain on our police service. We need more police officers to combat not just terrorism, but the things that we need a modern police force to do.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the House. We have protected the police budget from 2015 to 2020. We will be conducting the review to find out what else we could do better to combat terrorism. The security services are leading on the review, looking at what has happened in the past. We will have an open mind as to what is needed, depending on what that review reveals.
At present, a person who pleads guilty to possessing a well-known extremist publication, which includes instructions for making home-made bombs, will typically be sentenced to just 14 months. So they will be out in seven months, and will still be radicalised and a danger. Does the Home Secretary agree that the time has come to toughen up sentences under sections 57 and 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000?
It is fair to say that that is exactly the sort of instance I was referring to in my comments earlier. We must look at tougher sentencing, as Max Hill has suggested, in those sort of instances.
On behalf of my constituents, may I express our deepest condolences to the victims of the terror attacks and their families? We utterly condemn the horrific attacks, as most people in our country do. Will the Home Secretary heed the warnings of the Mayor of London and the head of the Metropolitan police about the £400 million cuts, which would put prevention at risk? Will she also update the House on where she has got to on ensuring that internet companies immediately take down religious extremist and far-right sites that promote violence?
I thank the hon. Lady for her important question. I have had several meetings with the Mayor of London and I commend him on the work he has done. He has been working closely with us to make sure that we are really united on getting the right approach. Again, let me say that there have been no plans for police cuts and we have protected the budget; I hear the numbers she gives but I simply do not recognise them. In terms of the internet, we are making good progress. We have set up, in the UK, an internet forum to try to get more action. The companies are taking down—after we ask them to do so—2,000 pieces of hate material a week. There is more to do and we are hopeful of having a constructive international agreement with them so that we can get a really proactive approach from them.
I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. I know she will agree that the people who committed these atrocities and the idiots who stoned Torquay mosque in reprisal are just two sides of the same coin of hate. How does she see the commission for countering extremism being able to deal with both those threats?
That is a very good point to make. I hope that our commission will do exactly that; it will make it clear that extremism in any form is, as my hon. Friend says, two sides of the same coin and is unwelcome in this country. We need to find out what else we can do to make sure that we reduce it.
I thank the Minister for her statement. If reports are correct, the recent attack on Finsbury Park mosque was a premeditated attack by a self-radicalised extremist. My constituency knows more than most about the devastation that one extremist can bring. I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement that 25% of the referrals to Prevent have been for far-right extremists, but how many of those referrals have been acted upon?
Let me take the opportunity to commend the work that the Jo Cox Foundation did on the Great Get Together last weekend. Like many Members—many Labour Members as well—I took the opportunity to show that something good had come out of Jo’s horrible, terrible death. I am so sorry, but I have forgotten the hon. Lady’s question.
I was asking how many Prevent referrals are acted on.
The Prevent activity comes from referrals, usually from schools, universities or community groups. They are mostly acted on. Only a smaller portion of them go through to the Channel programme. A disproportionately larger number of far right-wing referrals go through to the Channel programme—about 25%. I can come back to the hon. Lady with more numbers if she would like.
Is the Home Secretary receiving sufficient co-operation from the tech giants and social media companies in her efforts to thwart terrorism? Are they putting sufficient resources in particular into removing inappropriate content quickly enough?
My hon. Friend knows a little bit about this issue; I am grateful for his question. A lot of this is about making sure the tech companies resource sufficiently—that they do not just wait for us to ask them to take down hate material, but take action to make sure that it is not put up in the first place. We are working with them; there are signs that they will take action, and they are making progress, but I do not underestimate the difficulty and the challenge of making sure we get a truly international agreement, which is the big prize.
Rightly, last week there was concentration on resources in London for policing, but terrorism does not respect police authority boundaries. It is not scaremongering but a fact that next year Durham Constabulary will have its budget cut by £1.1 million, and that is before inflation and wage increases. What is the Home Secretary going to do to ensure that Durham and other regional forces have the resources to keep the communities they serve safe?
I do believe that areas such as Durham have the resources they need to keep people safe. They are all making good progress in changing their arrangements so that they can save money and put more police officers on the frontline. If the hon. Gentleman has any particular concerns, I recommend he sees the police Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd), who I am sure will want to hear them.
I am confident that the Home Secretary will agree with me that we have the best emergency services in the world, and frankly their efforts in the past few months particularly have been nothing short of heroic. Will she therefore use her considerable influence to try to ensure that the public sector pay freeze is ended so that these workers are treated with the dignity and respect they surely deserve?
I thank the hon. Lady for her helpful contribution to any future conversations I might have with the Chancellor.
Further to the question asked by my friend and constituency neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge), houses next to constituents of mine were raided by the police over recent days, and there are links between the people who carried out the vile murders at London Bridge and Borough Market and several parts of east London. We know that radical so-called preachers such as Anjem Choudary were recruiting within our community for years before they were eventually jailed. What are the Government going to do to deal with, as the Home Secretary said, the ideological issues?
That is the nub of what we are trying to address. The fact is that people are becoming weaponised by the crazed ideology of Daesh, often over the internet while they are at home, and by all the hate material. The message from Daesh is not to join them any more in the so-called caliphate, but instead to become weapons in those people’s communities. We are making sure we work with the internet companies to take that information down, and that we have a programme that reaches out and tries to protect people in those communities so that they do not become radicalised. We are also looking at what else we can do. That is why we are taking part in a review, looking at both the past and the future. We want to make sure that we stop that radicalisation taking hold in people’s communities.
May I praise the united response of Cardiff communities, particularly faith communities, to the recent attacks, both through condemnation and in solidarity with London and Manchester, especially given the shocking news that the alleged attacker in Finsbury Park was living in Cardiff?
The Home Secretary mentioned a forum to tackle the internet issue. The fact is that there is still far-right and Islamist content on the internet today on platforms like YouTube and Twitter. When is she going to get serious about sanctions for companies that are failing to deliver on their responsibilities to remove this content?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are trying to work with them on a voluntary basis, and we are making progress. If we abandon that voluntary basis and go straight to sanctions, there is always the danger that the hate material will just move elsewhere. We want to make sure that we have a resolution to this problem. We are not frightened of moving to sanctions, if that is where we have to go, but a better outcome would be having those companies working with us and, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service has said, putting the resources in and making sure they are used to ensure that the material does not go up in the first place.
I have previously asked the Home Secretary about the number of UK-born fighters returning from Syria and what happens to them. Bearing in mind Max Hill’s comments and the very low number of TPIMs at the moment, does she expect that the number of TPIMs will go up considerably?
TPIMs form an important part of the tools we have to deal with returning foreign fighters. We do track foreign fighters very carefully, where we can, and we recognise that they are potentially the most dangerous cohort of people returning here. TPIMs are one of the tools and they can be used when necessary. I am involved in all the decision making around them. It currently seems correct that those tools are available and can be used when they are needed. If it becomes necessary to use them more, we may need additional legislation, in which case I will come back to the House and ask the hon. Lady to make that case with me to the shadow Home Secretary.
Will the Home Secretary join me in wishing a full recovery to Lisa Bridgett, of Mynytho, who suffered multiple injuries in the Manchester attack while waiting for her daughter? Of course, we sympathise with all victims of the recent atrocities. I note the Home Secretary’s recent announcement, but will she commit to consider undertaking an independent review of policing resources as a whole, not only to maintain public confidence in counter-terrorism and efforts to tackle cyber-hate, but to underpin essential community policing?
I will join the hon. Lady in wishing Lisa Bridgett a swift recovery, but I cannot see the need for an independent review of policing. The police are doing an exemplary job, and they need all the support that we in the House can give them at this difficult time.
The uplift in the number of armed police officers in West Yorkshire has come directly from neighbourhood and response policing, making day-to-day policing that bit tougher. Is the Home Secretary in a position to update the House on when the review of the police funding formula will be published? Will she accept that the issue is not exclusively about powers; it is also about the number of police officers who are able to use such powers?
I understand the hon. Lady’s curiosity about the police funding formula. We are currently still reviewing its position, so I will come back to her when we have made a decision.
I, too, extend our thoughts to the victims of the recent terrorist outrages, those who were hospitalised and their families. The attacks were indiscriminate. People of all faiths were killed and injured. People of all faiths went to help, whether that was on the scene or in our hospitals and throughout the other emergency services. We know that there is a ripple effect of hate crime that carries on afterwards, and that reaches much wider and affects other communities. Muslims in my constituency and throughout the country have told me about how they feel more vulnerable and less secure. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is important for MPs to reiterate the message that Islam is a religion of peace? Can she reassure the House that, in the final days of Ramadan and Eid, if more support is needed for Muslim communities, she will ensure that it is provided?
I thank the hon. Lady for those comments; she is absolutely right. On her specific request for more support, we already have a £2.4 million fund for places of worship, to which a number of mosques have applied to make sure that they are safe. I can announce that next week I will open up an additional £1 million for places of worship. That addresses the concern from some people, including the shadow Foreign Secretary, that in order for a place of worship to apply for the funds there had to have already been a hate crime in the area. We are now making sure that additional funds are available so that people who are concerned about their mosques can apply for money to support their endeavours to keep those mosques safe.
The police have been magnificent, the faiths in this House have stood together in unity, and the Home Secretary is absolutely right that we face a uniquely awful generational threat from terrorism, but may I ask her this question? The four most senior police officers in this country have written to her to express their concern. They have put in place an emergency plan to protect the public, but they say that it is simply not sustainable. They are having to hollow out neighbourhood policing and divert officers from serious and organised crime and historical inquiries, including in relation to child sexual exploitation and abuse. The first duty of any Government must be the safety and security of their citizens. Does she therefore accept that the time has come to reverse those deeply damaging cuts of 20,000 to our police services?
I have of course received that letter from the four senior police officers outlining their concerns about resourcing. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the emergency matters to which they refer were part of a well-organised plan for this type of situation, such as Operation Temperer. The system is working. They needed additional support because, of course, in these circumstances resources have been pulled very tightly, given the additional work that is needed. There are different ways of addressing this. Before rushing in with additional money, I want to ensure that we get the right target and the right answers. I recognise what they are saying, and I recognise the fact that we cannot carry on at that emergency level indefinitely, so we will be working with those police officers to ensure that we get the right response.
Will the Home Secretary confirm that she has received a letter from Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, on behalf of the three police and crime commissioners in the north-west, pointing out the impact on services of the drastic cuts in police numbers? Those three areas are affected by terrorism, rising gun crime and daily fracking protests in Lancashire. The three PCCs have said—indeed, Merseyside’s chief constable said this on television—that if the reductions are not put right and if there is not a commitment to further funding, policing as we now know it will deteriorate even further.
I will of course be responding to that letter, and I take very seriously the points that have been made. We must ensure that people are kept safe. I commend the new Mayor for the work he did after the atrocious attack in Manchester. If the hon. Lady would like, I will copy her in to my response to that letter.
The Prevent training programme has come under much criticism. Can the Home Secretary say how that will be critiqued, and will the Anderson commission address it?
Prevent has been a great success for many families. I refer, in particular, to the 150 people who were prevented from travelling to Syria last year, 50 of whom were children. I have met families who have managed to stop their children travelling to Syria or becoming radicalised because they engaged with the programme. However, I recognise that there is always more to learn, so we will ensure that we build on Prevent and improve it where necessary, and part of our review will be seeing whether it works. We have two reviews: one looking at what has happened with the security forces and one looking forward. We are not complacent and we do not think that Prevent has all the answers, but please do not underestimate the fantastically important work it has done in many different communities up and down the country.
Does the Home Secretary agree that the terrible events of recent months show the need now more than ever to continue to promote tolerance between people of different faiths, and between people of faith and people of none?
Absolutely. The more we can do in this House to reiterate that message, the better.
As has been said, overseas travel is frequently a factor in radicalisation so I was very interested to hear what the Home Secretary has just said about trying to prevent that travel, rather than just using monitoring and TPIMs when people return. She spoke about families. Will she say a little more about what she can do to prevent young men being influenced by extremist ideology, travelling overseas, becoming radicalised and being turned into terrorists as a result?
The best examples I have seen—in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, for example—have been led within communities, often by Muslim men and women, giving a clear direction and reasons not to become radicalised, by talking to people on their level and engaging them in activities that they are interested in. That is the sort of successful work that Prevent does. It is about motivating and resourcing community leaders and people with good ideas about how to de-radicalise, right at the source of where those young men are. I think that is the best work we can do as a Government.
Community and faith leaders in my community have been outspoken in their revulsion at and condemnation of the attacks in Manchester and London, but there is also consternation at reports that members of the Didsbury mosque, which Salman Abedi and his family attended, had reported his radicalisation, but it appears that that was not heeded or acted upon. What can the Home Secretary say about that, and what assurances can she give the community that such reports will be acted upon, and that lack of resources will not present a barrier?
The hon. Lady asks a very fair question, and naturally I have been asking that of the security services. We should not rush to believe everything that is said about what was and was not done during that period. That is one of the reasons for having this review. It has not been about resources; really it has sometimes been about the number of calls coming in. However, we should still encourage people to use the terrorist hotline to make those calls. It is up to us to lead in that respect, and to do everything we can to ensure that people call out, as strongly and as often as possible, the types of activity that can lead to terrorism.